It’s likely that a number of executives at a few choice toon studios across town are green with envy after the success of Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow’s modestly budgeted franchise starter, “The Lego Movie.”
Assembling a number of industry and studio records, Warner’s $60 million-budgeted animated hit “The Lego Movie” scored a stellar estimated $69.1 million domestically in its first weekend, making it the biggest opening in February for an animated movie, as well as Warner’s best toon debut ever.
More importantly, the film, which Village Roadshow co-financed and co-produced, also thumbs the current model of pricey animation limiting any guarantee of financial success.
“The Lego Movie,” on the other hand, successfully managed to leverage an already globally popular brand and cross over with adult audiences, considering nearly 60% of its opening came from filmgoers older than 18. Ultimately, the pic’s fanboy component will help it weather the East Coast blizzards, despite Warner estimating a 32% drop on Sunday.
“This is what’s amazing about our business,” said Dan Fellman, prexy of domestic distribution for Warner Bros. “You look for opportunities like this and with the combination of a great brand and partner in Lego, as well as great filmmakers, we were able to achieve what I think will be a big re-entry into animation for us.”
Warner launched “The Lego Movie” in 34 overseas territories, the largest of which are in Latin America, representing less than a third of the overseas market place, with $18.1 million.
Internationally, Disney’s “Frozen” ruled the roost with $24 million, thanks to its opening in China, where the toon grossed a studio estimated $13.7 million in five days. So far, “Frozen” has amassed more than $545 million overseas, added to $368.7 million Stateside.
Also opening wide domestically, Sony scored a solid debut for George Clooney’s WWII art-caper “The Monuments Men,” which earned $22.7 million from 3,000-plus Stateside locations. Fox is distributing the film overseas, with no major territories bowing the pic this weekend.
While “The Lego Movie” successfully crossed over (and then some), the Weinstein Co.’s YA adaptation “Vampire Academy” failed to attract an audience larger than its core teen girl fanbase, grossing a meager $4.1 million domestically. Weinstein is under the gun for a modest P&A commitment, which still it is unlikely to re-coup given the dismal opening.
Meanwhile, falling to third place in Stateside standing was Universal’s three-week champ “Ride Along,” which collected an estimated $9.4 million, pushing the pic’s cume to $105.2 million. That makes “Ride Along” the first 2014 release to reach nine figures domestically.
‘Lego’ finds 3D support from fanboys
With its popularity among childless adults, especially men, Warner managed to inflate the “Lego” performance with a better-than-usual 35% from 3D — and that’s without the support of Imax, a favorite format among fanboys.
For more traditional family fare like “Frozen,” though it since has broadened to non-families, the 3D component has been significantly less. That pic, for instance, collected just 27% of its domestic opening from 3D (also without Imax). And while the Disney film has become a massive box office hit, crossing $900 million worldwide, 3D was a small contributor comparatively.
According to Warner, “The Lego Movie” has seen solid turnout during 10 p.m. and midnight showings, driven mostly by male auds, which contributed an overall 55% of the weekend gross.
That’s not too surprising, considering the Lego brand has a sizable following among hobbyists and adults, in general, who played with the toys as children. Warner, in turn, sought out to market the film to non-families by buying ads on prime time and nightly shows.
“The Lego Movie” features an adult-friendly cast of comedic actors including Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, Elizabeth Banks, Jonah Hill and Will Arnett. The film was directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the pair behind “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” and “21 Jump Street.” Dan Lin and Roy Lee produced.
Moreover, the film’s limited production budget compared to most animated features will make “The Lego Movie” a considerable financial success globally. Warner plans to launch the property into a film franchise.
The financial prospects for “The Monuments Men” look more iffy, though no where near disastrous. The film cost $75 million (not including marketing) and Sony and Fox are even partners, with both companies splitting the global film rentals. The pic’s internationally popular cast including Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Bill Murray and John Goodman, combined with the European setting, should make it an easier sell overseas.
Fox begins releasing “Monuments Men” throughout the major international territories over the next few weeks.
Elsewhere internationally, Sony bowed “Robocop” a week ahead of its domestic release in 47 countries, totaling $20.2 million, of which Imax contributed $1.5 million from just 87 screens. Leading the charge for “Robocop” was the U.K., which contributed $3.7 million, followed by France, with $3 million locally. Pic grossed $2 million each in Australia and Germany.
Film (Weeks in release): 3-day gross*; Locations; Per-theater average; Cume*; Percentage change
The Lego Movie (1): $69.1; 3,775; $18,307; $69.1; –
The Monuments Men (1): $22.7; 3,083; $7,363; $22.7; –
Ride Along (4): $9.4; 2,800; $3,355; $105.2; -22%
Frozen (12): $6.9; 2,460; $2,811; $368.7; -23%
That Awkward Moment (2):$5.5; 2,809; $1,972; $16.8; -37%
Lone Survivor (7): $5.3; 2,869; $1,845; $112.6; -25%
Vampire Academy (1): $4.1; 2,676; $1,533; $4.1; –
The Nut Job (4): $3.8; 3,004; $1,268; $55.1; -48%
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (4): $3.6; 2,139; $1,683; $44.5; -32%
Labor Day (2): $3.2; 2,584; $1,250; $10.2; -38%