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‘Jumanji: Next Level’ has strong box office opening as ‘Frozen 2’ crosses $1 billion

(CNN) — Sony and Disney had a nice box office weekend as “Jumanji: The Next Level” exceeded expectations and “Frozen 2” crossed $1 billion.

Sony’s “Next Level,” the sequel to 2017’s surprise hit “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” had a big weekend with an estimated $60 million debut in North America.

The film, which stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin Hart, nearly doubled the opening of “Welcome to the Jungle,” which would eventually go on to make nearly $1 billion two years ago. Industry experts had predicted that “Next Level” would make around $45 million while Sony was more conservative with its forecasts at $35 million.

2019 was not a kind year to sequels. “Dark Phoenix,” “Men In Black International,” “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” “Terminator: Dark Fate” and “Doctor Sleep” were all disappointments at the box office. But “Next Level” was able to avoid the sequel curse because it’s a “brand that audiences love,” according to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore.

“‘Welcome to the Jungle’ delivered exactly what audiences wanted in a reboot two years ago. This film took that popularity, I guess you could say, to the next level,” Dergarabedian told CNN Business. “It’s got a great cast, it’s a lot of fun and it’s just a perfect popcorn movie for the holiday season.”

Elsewhere at the box office this weekend, Disney once again crossed a milestone.

“Frozen 2,” the studio’s follow up to its frosty animated hit, broke the $1 billion mark at the global box office on Saturday.

The film, which stars the voice work of Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell, is the studio’s sixth film to make more than $1 billion. The film joins the studio’s other billion dollar blockbusters this year including “Avengers: Endgame,” “The Lion King,” “Captain Marvel,” “Toy Story 4” and “Aladdin.”

Disney is the first studio to have that many $1 billion movies in a single year, and it’s not done yet.

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” opens next weekend and is poised to be one of the biggest box office hits of the year. It’s also likely to be Disney’s seventh $1 billion film of 2019 once everything is said and done.

The box office could use all the help it can get. The North American box office is down 5.4% compared to last year and there is less than three weeks left to make up the deficit.

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