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Disney's "Frozen" joins exclusive $1 billion box-office club

Walt Disney's (DIS) Oscar-winning animated feature "Frozen" has grossed more than $1 billion in less than four months, setting the stage for what could become one of the most lucrative film franchises in the entertainment giant's history.

"Frozen" has out-earned the two "Despicable Me" films, which together have grossed about $620 million; the four "Ice Age" movies, which earned about $730 million; and the $381 million made by the two "Kung Fu Panda" movies.

According to Disney, "Frozen" is the 18th highest grossing movie of all time and the second-highest grossing animated film, after "Toy Story 3." "Frozen" reportedly cost about $150 million to produce and market, so the Burbank, Calif.-based company has already earned a nice return.

"I don't think anyone saw this coming," said Paul Dergarabedian, Rentrak's senior media analyst, adding that the film's strength is that it appeals to a diverse audience. "What 'Frozen' proves is that the Disney brand is incredibly strong and carries a lot of weight."

The movie, which is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," tells the story of two feuding princesses and features a lovable talking snow man named "Olaf." Disney is expected to produce a sequel and has a Broadway musical in the works.

"They covered all their bases on this one for sure," Dergarabedian said.

"Frozen" won two Oscars at Sunday's Academy Awards show -- one for best animated feature film and one for best original song.

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Disney also is set to reap big rewards from "Frozen" merchandise and will probably incorporate the story into its theme parks at some point. And, like other Oscar winners, "Frozen" is likely to get a boost from the publicity around its awards, including higher video-on-demand and streaming sales.

"There will be a respectable boost for the remainder of its theatrical run," writes Gitesh Pandya, editor of Box Office Guru. "However, the most upside will come from the home video release this month, as well as to Japan's box office, which has not started yet."

"Frozen" continues to pack them in. It grossed $3.6 million over the last weekend in North America to rank No. 8 at the box office, indicating that people are viewing the film repeatedly. This also will give a shot in the arm to Disney's animation studios, which in recent years have been overshadowed by such gigantic franchises as Pixar's "Toy Story" and "Cars" and Dreamworks Animation's "Shrek."

In a recent interview with Fortune Magazine, Disney CEO Bob Iger described "Frozen as "my proudest moment as the CEO of the Walt Disney Company." A "Frozen" musical isn't going to be rushed, Iger told the magazine. The same can be said about a sequel. Many Disney sequels have bombed at the box office, while others went straight to video.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the parents of the "Despicable Me" franchise. It was produced by Universal Studios and Illumination Entertainment. Also, the "Shrek" movies were made by DreamWorks Animation.

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