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Lego builds big box offi ce lead


This article was published February 14, 2014 at 2:00 a.m.


Actor Will Arnett provides the voice for the minifigure Batman in the computer-animated adventure film The Lego Movie. It came in first at last weekend’s box office and made about $69 million.

LOS ANGELES - All the pieces connected for The Lego Movie at the box office last weekend, as the 3-D animated release far exceeded industry expectations to post the biggest opening of the year.

The family film premiered with a robust $69 million, according to an estimate from distributor Warner Bros., after pre-release audience surveys heading into the weekend indicated the picture would open at about $50 million.

Meanwhile, George Clooney’s latest directorial effort, the World War II tale The Monuments Men, had a respectable premiere weekend of $22 million. The only other film debuting nationwide last weekend, the teen fantasy Vampire Academy, showed no signs of life, with a dismal $3.9 million opening.

Before The Lego Movie hit theaters, it was clear that the film was resonating with critics: The picture had a 95 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But moviegoers loved it too, assigning it an average grade of A, according to market-research firm CinemaScore.

With word of mouth, the movie could end up grossing close to $200 million - especially given that the next family film, Disney’s Mr. Peabody & Sherman, isn’t due until March. The Lego Movie opening surpasses Ride Along, which broke January box office records by taking in about $48 million on the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend last month.

The Lego success is a major win for Warner Bros., which isn’t a huge player in animation. The studio said it financed the film for about $60 million, a sum considered cheap for a genre in which movies cost upward of $150 million to produce.

Written and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller - creators of the Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs franchise - The Lego Movie was made with cooperation from the world’s second-biggest toy company. The film follows an upbeat construction worker (voiced by Chris Pratt) who is whisked away from his humdrum job by a nonconformist (Elizabeth Banks) for an adventure.

Film goers over age 18 constituted 59 percent of the audience, indicating that The Lego Movie successfully drew adults as well as children. About 55 percent of the audience was male. About 35 percent of those who saw the film were willing to shell out a few extra bucks to watch it in 3-D.

Meanwhile, an older crowd settled in for The Monuments Men. About 75 percent of the audience for the Columbia Pictures and 20th Century Fox co-production was older than 35, about equally split between men and women. The film earned a B-plus Cinema-Score and will need to generate strong buzz if it is to make up for its $70 million budget.

Monuments Men follows a motley crew of older men trying to recover art stolen by the Nazis. Despite an all-star cast that includes Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett and Bill Murray, the picture has largely been panned by critics. Initially thought to be an awards contender, the movie was set for release in December, but then Columbia pushed the film’s opening to a less competitive time of year.

Vampire Academy, based on the 2007 young-adult novel about a high school filled with blood-sucking students, failed to generate big numbers. Those who did see the Weinstein Co. release last weekend were, not surprisingly, female. The film was unable to bring in the $10 million that industry tracking had predicted.

MovieStyle, Pages 34 on 02/14/2014

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