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Walt Disney's (NYSE: DIS ) Frozen has been a major hit for the company, and fans have fallen in love with the movie's soundtrack. With reportedly thousands of cover versions of Frozen songs such as "Let It Go" appearing on YouTube, the studio has decided to capitalize on the popularity of the music and release a new edition of the film to theaters: a sing-along version, complete with on-screen lyrics and a bouncing snowflake to help viewers participate.
The sing-along version of Frozen has been a major hit so far, with online ticket portal Fandango reporting on Friday that advanced ticket sales were ahead of last week's no. 1 film Ride Along and both of the new films that debuted this past weekend. Random polling of 1,000 Fandango customers indicated that 75% of those buying tickets had already seen the film at least once in theaters already, and 52% said that they had seen it at least twice. Not bad for a film that at one time had a number of people questioning whether it would even be worth watching once.
Is it the start of a trend?
With the success of the sing-along version of Frozen, I'm wondering if we'll see more of this from Disney. Not every Disney film would be a good fit for this format, but the company might be able to boost box office numbers with similar versions of future releases, and it could reach into its vault of classics for limited-engagement rereleases of those movies that lend themselves to audience participation.
Of course, just because there's the potential to start a trend doesn't mean that Disney will follow through. A few years ago, 3D conversion was a major trend and older films such as The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast received the 3D treatment for theatrical rerelease. Disney was one of many studios that jumped on the bandwagon -- Lucasfilm and Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ: FOX ) , distributor for the original "Star Wars" films, rereleased Star Wars: Episode I in 3D in 2012.
After the box office returns started to decline, however, Disney cancelled the 3D theatrical release of The Little Mermaid. Likewise, the rerelease of additional "Star Wars" films in 3D was indefinitely postponed and all focus shifted to Star Wars: Episode VII. While it's possible that the other films could eventually see theatrical release, a 2011 interview with "Star Wars" producer Rick McCallum suggested that if the first rerelease didn't perform well enough then the company wouldn't move forward with other conversions.
A Disney-only trend?
One thing that could set a potential this trend apart from trends such as 3D conversion is that there are few studios that would benefit from sing-along versions of their films. While Disney's animated films are famous for having musical sequences, that can't be said for most movies. Even competitors in the animated space such as DreamWorks Animation (NASDAQ: DWA ) typically rely more on traditional soundtracks instead of song-and-dance numbers featuring the characters. This could actually work to Disney's benefit.
Part of the problem with a lot of trends is that other studios jump on the bandwagon and moviegoers grow weary of the same things from every studio. In this situation, however, Disney would have a corner on the market and could create sing-along versions quickly and for fairly little cost. This would allow Disney to only release those films that fans seem to want to sing along with, and would let the company choose on the fly instead of planning the releases years in advance like it had to do with 3D conversions.
Will it happen?
It remains to be seen whether Disney will actually try adapting other films for the sing-along experience, but it could happen. Given that Disney representatives cited the popularity of Frozen's music on YouTube specifically, it's likely that the company will monitor video sites and social media to see if the demand is there when future films are released. The sing-along version of Frozen was released within 10 weeks of the movie debuting in theaters, so Disney could set up similar releases as needed toward the end of other films' runs.
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