Expect huge box office opening for 'The Princess and the Frog,' thanks to high ticket prices [updated]
When it opens Wednesday, it also will be the first Disney animated film since 2003's "Brother Bear" to start in limited release in New York and Los Angeles. Like that movie and many other of its traditional cartoons, including "The Lion King" and "Hercules," the studio is pairing the two initial runs of "Princess" with an "experience" that includes games, actresses dressed as Disney princesses, props, costumes and other activities that give kids fun time beyond the film. [Updated 3:05 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that "Brother Bear" was Disney's last hand-drawn animated film. It was 2004's "Home on the Range."]
All those extras mean ticket prices will be substantially higher than for a normal picture. Disney is charging $30 for general admission tickets, $50 for the best seats and $20 per person for groups at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City and on the studio lot in Burbank. (Disney's El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, its traditional spot for high-profile L.A. runs, is currently using its 3-D projection system to play "A Christmas Carol.")
The "ultimate Disney event," as the studio's website calls it, will play until Sunday, Dec. 13, the first weekend that "The Princess and the Frog" plays nationwide. Disney already has racked up more than $3.2 million in pre-sales. In Burbank, all but one show from Wednesday through Sunday is sold out, while the larger Ziegfeld in New York has fully booked half of its screenings over the holiday weekend.
In the meantime, high demand and inflated ticket prices -- more than six times the U.S. average at the top end -- means "Princess" should see huge grosses for a two-theater run. It's no accident that the top seven per-theater averages of all time on Box Office Mojo are all Disney animated runs, and it's very likely that "The Princess and the Frog" will join them this weekend, particularly with Friday being a holiday.
-- Ben Fritz
Photo: A scene from "The Princess and the Frog." Credit: Walt Disney Studios