Move Over 'Frozen' - This Could Be Disney's Next $1 Billion Movie

It's not often you see a movie exceeding $1 billion in global box office sales.

Of the nearly 700 films released over the past year, only two were able to do so. Curiously enough, both came from the creative minds at The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS  ) : First with $1.125 billion last summer from Disney Marvel's Iron Man 3, and more recently with $1.11 billion (and counting) from Walt Disney Animation's Frozen.

In fact, Disney accounts for seven of the 18 films that have ever managed to top the $1 billion mark worldwide -- unadjusted for inflation, that is -- with some of its other massive titles including Marvel's The Avengers, Pixar's Toy Story 3, and two films from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

But this begs the question: What will Disney's next $1 billion movie be? 

I think investors and movie fans need look no further than the May 30 debut of Maleficent:

Disney, News Corp, Comcast, and DreamWorks all battle for box office supremacy

Angelina Jolie stars in Disney's Maleficent, launching May 30. Credit: Disney. 

If the name sounds familiar, it's because Maleficent is the same thorn-manifesting, dragon-morphing, prince-kidnapping antagonist you've known and loathed ever since Disney first released Sleeping Beauty in 1959.

This in mind, nobody can guarantee Maleficent will ultimately be massive enough to reach $1 billion at the box office this year. But I love its chances considering Disney enlisted the exceptional writing talents of Linda Woolverton, whose work includes 1994's The Lion King and 2010's Alice in Wonderland. Even unadjusted for inflation, The Lion King achieved an incredible $987.5 million in worldwide box office sales 20 years ago, while Alice in Wonderland managed to reach $1.025 billion.

Regarding the latter, it appears Disney has identified an intriguing recipe for success: spend buckets of money to create convincing live-action takes on classic animated properties. While Disney hasn't released official production budget numbers for Maleficent, it seems fair to assume it must be in the neighborhood of the $200 million Disney spent bringing Alice in Wonderland to life.

Only this time, Disney has replaced Johnny Depp's supporting role as the Mad Hatter with Angelina Jolie headlining as Maleficent. Just take a look at Maleficent's latest goosebump-inducing trailer:

What's more, there's a notable lack of closely scheduled big-budget competition for Maleficent in its crucial first weekends.

By the time Maleficent is released in the U.S., News Corp's  (NASDAQ: NWS  ) 20th Century Fox will have already enjoyed the spoils of X-Men: Days of Future Past for a full week. Meanwhile, the only other film simultaneously entering wide release will be Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA  ) Universal's A Million Ways to Die in The West. 

Nobody expects Comcast's western comedy to set any records, but X-Men: Days of Future Past could be huge -- and it had better be for the sake of News Corp., which is rumored to have spent upwards of $240 million on the production. But even then, it's not as though the target audiences will overlap to a great degree between News Corp's mutant-powered action flick and Disney's princess-infused fantasy. 

After that, it's not until three weekends following Maleficent's release audiences will be able to enjoy DreamWorks Animation's (NASDAQ: DWA  ) worthy sequel in How to Train Your Dragon 2. By the time DreamWorks tries its hand at grabbing movie-goers' attention, Maleficent will have already secured the lions share of its early sales.

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What do you think? Will Maleficent be able to reach $1 billion in total sales? Even coming close would be a huge win for Disney, which has already rewarded investors handsomely by nearly quadrupling over the past five years alone.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 19, 2014, at 1:38 PM, esxokm wrote:

    I hope you are right; as a Disney shareholder, I would love to see this hit $1 billion and give the studio another big hit to follow "Frozen."

    I think the Comcast film "A Million Ways" might do a little better than expected because it is from Seth MacFarlane and he is following up on his "Ted" success.

    It's too bad Disney didn't release "Maleficent" in the slot occupied by the "Captain America" sequel -- that might have given it even more chance to hit a billion (the Marvel flick could have been released in "Maleficent's" slot, even though that would have put three Marvel films in the same month; hey, the market might have absorbed that efficiently).

  • Report this Comment On April 19, 2014, at 7:56 PM, vollbarry wrote:

    As one blockbuster princess film fades another is born. Follow the magic.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 2:04 AM, delfra wrote:

    For one thing "Iron Man 3" made 1.215 billion not 1.125 billion. I think "Maleficent" will be a big hit, but I don't see it making 1 billion, I think that's asking too much.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 2:09 AM, schuylervjohnson wrote:

    I'm sorry, Angelina Jolie with hairy horns to be the next BILLION dollar movie? Not a chance. I like and respect her, nothing on her, but this is beyond absurd.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 2:11 AM, FrankoJames wrote:

    I still like the early Image comic characters before Disney took control of "Modern Art". Enjoy the future.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 2:20 AM, RickLV wrote:

    Frozen had lots going for it. It's cute, funny, clever, and has fantastic music. I doubt maleficent will be cute, funny or musical.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 6:48 AM, GARMSTRONG wrote:

    It would behoove Disney to make anther $Billion movie to go with "Frozen". After "John Carter" & "The Lone Ranger" they lost their butts...were talking in excess of $600 million in lost their butts.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 6:49 AM, sillyoldbear577 wrote:

    This movie will bomb.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 8:34 AM, BuddhaDude wrote:

    Ya know, I heard about this movie and seen an earlier trailer that didn't make me interested. However, after seeing the posted trailer here and reading some previous articles about the movie I might go see this after all. Seems interesting enough,

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 9:15 AM, Starmoonsky wrote:

    Frozen appealed to all ages and groups. Maleficent does not. Young children will be scared of this film. Not only will this movie NOT be the next $1 BIL Disney film,I predict it will bomb like Lone Ranger & John Carter.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 9:34 AM, xzarterius wrote:

    Don't see this being any better than Snow white and the huntsman. Not even close to a billion dollar movie. Frozen was barely entertaining. I think with the harsh winter people went to see it because of the name.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 9:39 AM, ComicInvestor wrote:

    I'm skeptical--I just don't know who this movie is aiming for. It's too terrifying for little kids, and it's not really a storyline that would engage teens or adults.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 10:06 AM, ccvikings09 wrote:

    I found a typo in the title. I think it meant to say, "Move over 'John Carter'- This could be Disney's next bust of a movie."

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 10:39 AM, Alsubsailor wrote:

    Lots of people don't think this movie will cut the mustard, but I think it just might surprise us all. Here's why:

    1) Who do you remember best: The well played good guy, or the well played bad guy? Usually, it's the well played bad guy. What would "Silence of the Lambs" have been without Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lector? What would "Seven" have been without a VERY creepy Kevin Spacey? Would "Avengers" have done as well without the awesome performance of Tom Hiddleston as Loki? A well played villain can really make or break a movie.

    2) And this movie is all about Disney's #1 villain of all time: Maleficent. She's evil, she's bad-azzed, she nearly won the day in sleeping beauty. People know the character, but Disney sounds like they're going to give her the "you don't know the real story" treatment, which intrigues many people (like me).

    3) And let's face it: If you're looking for someone to play an evil woman who's pretty hot in a disturbing way, then Angelina Jolie is your girl. She's got the chops to play the character, there's no doubt about that, and I think she'll bring a very sinister yet sad twist to it that few others could have pulled off.

    Now, will it hit the $1 billion mark? I'm not going to hold my breath on that one, but I think it will more than make back what was spent on it, and certainly dominate it's release week (and hold it until "How to Train Your Dragon 2" comes out).

    I for one will most likely go and see it. Hopefully I won't have to eat crow on my assessment and I'll enjoy the movie.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 11:34 AM, Theinsultedelf wrote:

    Nah, it won't be anywhere as profitable. It's live action, not a cartoon. As an adult I got no desire to go see a live action Disney fairy tale film. As an adult is do enjoy most Disney's animated films

    Frozen was an animated cartoon that I wanted to see from the very first trailer. Maleficent: doesn't interest me at all despite being an Angie J. fan. Disney's live actions movie are usually far too mature these days for "G" rating imo. Mr.Disney certainly wouldn't have approved of them using the Disney brand name. They should keep their live action stuff to Touchstone Pictures and stop using the Disney brand for live action movies.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 11:53 AM, Ekul1021 wrote:

    Hope this movie is as creepy as it looks.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 2:13 PM, JustAnotherFool6 wrote:

    This movie is a bad idea. It doesn't directly appeal to boys - or men who act like boys. It won't appeal to women since it lacks romance, music or happy things. Sleeping Beauty made 29 million. Snow White and the Huntsman made 155 million, but cost 170 million to make. I doubt this movie will go anywhere near 1 billion. It will likely not be profitable.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 2:49 PM, freeburn14 wrote:

    No way this hits a billion, let alone half of that kind of box office. The preview looked terrible and the test audiences aren't being very kind to it either. I say it goes the way of the Lone Ranger film-losing a lot of money.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 2:50 PM, dopplegager wrote:

    No chance this hits a billion. Maybe it will do Alice in Wonderland numbers but the first trailer for this was godawful and people remember that.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 3:51 PM, Jenn76 wrote:

    I highly doubt it, 1 Billion is a lot of money.

    My 5 year old daughter who has watched Frozen more times then I can even count is Terrified of the trailer.

    What made Frozen so wonderful was that it got away from the terrifying and obvious villain.

    Also, does this movie have a "Let it Go" number and a Queen Elza???

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 4:00 PM, Etaner wrote:

    Richness and depth is what this movie offers, per the trailers I've seen. Children of our era aren't always into pithy flowers and talking bunnies, but enjoy seeing behind the curtain of beloved movies such as Sleeping Beauty. My daughter is 8 and my son 10 and both were squealing with glee at the preview for this movie. Personally, I was super excited before they jumped on board. This movie will appeal to ANYONE who loves magic, Bedtime stories and delving into the psyche of their favorite villians and will be appropriate from children ages 8-80. So, I REALLY can't understand why the sourpusses are raining on Maleficients' parade...this is gonna ROCK! This is the first movie this year I am totally invested in seeing.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 5:33 PM, miker529 wrote:

    You think a disney movie that is not made for little kids is going to beat frozen, if you believe that then i have a bridge for sale...

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 6:49 PM, awang0718 wrote:

    Frozen crossed $1 billion thanks to three things:

    1) A Disney queen with cool magical ice/snow powers

    2) A unique, funny, and emotonal story based off of Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale

    3) An Oscar worthy, and eventually Oscar winning song, "Let It Go"

    Maleficent has none of that. I see that movie earning $500 million worldwide max.

    However, i could be wrong. Nobody expected Frozen to earn $1 billion, so you never know...

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 8:02 PM, cluckey wrote:

    Absolutely will not hit a billion. I would be surprised if it even makes a decent profit.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 8:46 PM, SuntanIronMan wrote:

    As a Disney shareholder, I'd of course love for it to do a billion dollars at the box office. But I have much more reasonable expectations.

    I think it will still do well, but I'm not sure it will have very young child appeal that Frozen had. Maleficent seems like it would be a bit dark and scary for the very young children audience.

    I personally love those type of Disney movies. I love old school Disney where they'd have things like a devil torturing souls in a burning hellfire (Night on Bald Mountain in Fantasia). Maleficent in the 1959's Sleeping Beauty was a great scary, dark, evil villain as well (even by today's standards). Or even something made during my lifetime: Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He was an absolutely great Disney villain.

    I think this I will similarly enjoy this PG-rated, but still dark Maleficent movie. BUT... those type of movies might be a bit nightmare inducing for the very young, haha.

    Young children appropriate, sure. But not so much -very- young children.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 10:13 PM, JonasPlanck wrote:

    Does anybody here besides me remember a time long ago when art was judged as if it was art, instead of being judged for how profitable it was?

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2014, at 12:44 AM, Phlash12 wrote:

    " it's not as though the target audiences will overlap to a great degree between News Corp's mutant-powered action flick and Disney's princess-infused fantasy. "

    Wow, shows the lack of knowledge on the writer's part (or lack of research) about fans. He's wrong on this one. Fool indeed.

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2014, at 12:52 AM, Mandark wrote:

    I get the idea. This movie is similar, in plot, to "Wicked," the sequel to the Wizard of Oz. It is another example of not ever making judgments about situations, and people, until you know all of the facts. In "Wicked", Elbatha,the witch of the West, had her side of the story told. In "Malificent" her side of the story will be told.

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2014, at 1:11 AM, SuntanIronMan wrote:

    @JonasPlanck

    "Does anybody here besides me remember a time long ago when art was judged as if it was art, instead of being judged for how profitable it was?"

    Nope. And I'm willing to bet neither do you, haha.

    Even if you go all the way back to art patrons of ancient Greece, Rome, or wherehaveyou, there was typically some other motive behind the patronage instead of just simply sponsoring art for art's sake.

    Doesn't mean you can appreciate art as art (profitable or unprofitable). But rarely will there be a time when art is ONLY judged as art.

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2014, at 4:39 AM, JudgeHarbolt wrote:

    Lion King was sold by the success of the previous two musical cartoon movies and the songs. Alice... was successful because of the visual artistry and Tim Burton. The stories for both were of poor quality, especially Alice which left anyone I talked to and me wonder why so much talent went into everything except for the story. The newly aquired knowledge that Linda Woolverton wrote this makes me want to not watch it, when I was interested before knowing who wrote it.

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2014, at 6:26 AM, delfra wrote:

    @dopplegager -If "Maleficent" does "Alice In Wonderlan" numbers it will be a billion dollar franchise seeing that movie grossed 1.06 billion worldwide. Like I said before I do think "Maleficent' will be a hit and make money at the box office, but I don't see it reaching 1 billion.

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2014, at 10:01 AM, KelleyB wrote:

    I can't figure Out who this movie is for, so I doubt it will make this type of money. My kids want to see it, but they are way too young for this scary style movie. Teens are where movies make the money, and maybe this movie appeals to some of them, but I don't see it as a clear winner for this group. It's a kids movie dressed up as a horror film. Hard to find a crowd for this, maybe.

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2014, at 10:33 AM, TMFSymington wrote:

    Thanks for all comments folks! Even for those who disagree, it's good see you all feel so passionately!

    I have one quick thought, however, on a common disagreement: Despite its seemingly dark appearance, keep in mind 'Maleficent' bears a kid-friendly MPAA rating of PG. That'll be a great equalizer between it and nearby films including the (likely) PG-13 rated 'X-Men: Days of Future Past,' opening it up to a significantly wider target audience. Whether parents will feel comfortable bringing young children to it remains to be seen, but something tells me Disney will tackle that in future previews as its debut nears.

    Will Maleficent crush 'Frozen'? Probably not, but I still think it has all the makings of a $1 billion blockbuster.

    Thanks again for reading, and keep the comments coming!

    Fool on,

    Steve (TMFSymington)

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2014, at 8:33 PM, alboyer2 wrote:

    This is a real reach. No indications of a fantasy that stars a villain would warrant such heavy repeat business as was the case with Frozen. No good feeling from catchy songs in this Jolie feature. I got a shiny nickel riding against Mr. Symmington's prediction. We will see.

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2014, at 8:54 PM, ringmaster16 wrote:

    The fact that Angelina Jolie is starring and Maleficent is a huge fan-favorite and a beloved antagonist makes this show ideal for making big in the box offices.

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2014, at 12:03 AM, MS91 wrote:

    I would be much more excited if Angelina Jolie was NOT in this movie. I cannot stand her!! I will go only because my husband wants to see it. Bleh!!!

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2014, at 2:35 PM, iwillnottrade wrote:

    Part of what made 'Frozen' a hit is that the story and characters actually chimed in by those outside of the movie's target audience, namely teens and adults over the age of 21. It's similar to the "Brony" phenomenon in which Hasbro's 'My Little Pony Friendship is Magic' became a hit with adult audiences.

    Outside of the writing and direction, the only two draws for Maleficent is Jolie and the character, who many fans not only remember her from Sleeping Beauty, but from Kingdom Hearts as well. None of which would attract the same group(s) that either made Frozen or MLP popular.

    That said, Maleficent's assurance of not flopping is the number of weeks before How to Train Your Dragon 2 opens in theatres. It only needs to deal with the previous release of X-Men and Godzilla. The only other factor would be movies like 'Edge of Tomorrow' starring Tom Cruise that might be dark horse in the weeks before Dragons.

  • Report this Comment On May 31, 2014, at 6:52 PM, rlaidepeas wrote:
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