Moviegoers rushed out to see the buzzworthy animated comedy The Lego Movie which posted a record opening for an animated film during the winter months of December-January-February. The Warner Bros. release grossed an estimated $69.1M from 3,775 theaters for a sensational $18,307 average.
Overall, it was the second largest February opening in history trailing only the $83.8M of The Passion of the Christ from ten years ago. It was also the third best animated debut outside of summer following The Incredibles ($70.5M in November 2004) and The Lorax ($70.2M in March 2012). LEGO proved that audiences can come out to the multiplexes in huge numbers at any point of the year as long as there is a compelling film that people really want to experience.
Based on the popular toy blocks which have been around for generations, LEGO benefited from a brand that is loved by audiences of all ages and so it played beyond just a kid crowd. Plus reviews were positive across the board and the marketing machine had been pushing the toon for months. Appeal was broad with teens and young adults also taking interest in the witty humor.
Studio research showed that the PG-rated film skewed 55% male and 59% were over 18. Ticket buyers liked what they paid for with the CinemaScore grade being an encouraging A. With strong reviews, positive word-of-mouth, and the Presidents Day holiday coming up next week, the future looks bright for The LEGO Movie which might be able to make it to the quarter-billion mark in North America alone. Fans opted more for the standard 2D option at regular prices as higher-priced 3D screens accounted for only 35% of the gross.
Summer is the main time for A-list animated features to come out. Otherwise, the Thanksgiving and Easter holiday months will be used to launch major toons too, but until now, the biggest animated opening in February had been Gnomeo & Juliet with $25.4M. LEGO opened almost three times larger so it truly was an exceptional performance.
A lack of competition also worked in its favor. Though The Nut Job has done respectable business, there really has been no animated blockbuster for families to rally behind since Frozen which opened nearly three months ago. Studios programmed too few toon options this winter and LEGO took full advantage. It also opened to an estimated $18.1M from 34 international markets this weekend including Mexico, Spain, and Brazil. The U.K. opens next weekend with many more key markets to follow throughout the spring.
George Clooney and pals flexed some muscle in second place as their historical pic The Monuments Men debuted well with an estimated $22.7M from 3,083 theaters for a solid $7,363 average. Reviews were mostly negative which made the debut impressive since its target audience of older adults pays attention to critics for films like these.
In this case, starpower and the war story trumped bad reviews. Clooney, who also co-wrote and directed, was joined in the ensemble cast by Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, and Cate Blanchett in a true story of art experts during World War II on a mission to recover priceless European works stolen by the Nazis. Despite the negative marks from film critics, paying audiences were generally pleased with the Sony release as evidenced by the decent B+ CinemaScore grade.
As is often the case with films set during WW2, the audience skewed much older with 75% being of age 35 or over. The gender split was more even with females making up 52% of the crowd. The Monuments opening weekend fell halfway in between the $19.5M of Argo and the $25.7M of Captain Phillips which played to the same audiences. The major difference was that those two other films earned rave reviews and were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar with Argo even winning it. With the older skew and a holiday frame coming up next week, Men might go on to enjoy good legs giving 2014 yet another early-year hit.
Following its three-week reign atop the box office, the hit comedy Ride Along fell down to third place but cracked the $100M mark in the process. The Universal buddy flick dipped only 22% to an estimated $9.4M raising the cume to a stellar $105.2M while joining the century club on Saturday after only 23 days. This is the first $100M+ hit for both Kevin Hart and Ice Cube in lead roles. Ride Along could find its way to a $130M+ finish.
The unstoppable animated smash Frozen reached more milestones in its eleventh weekend of wide release as it sat in the number four slot. With an estimated $6.9M, off just 23%, the Disney juggernaut raised its domestic tally to $368.7M and surpassed the $368.1M of Despicable Me 2 to become the highest-grossing animated film released in 2013 as well as the third biggest overall blockbuster for the year after The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Iron Man 3. The last time Disney had the year’s top-grossing toon (not counting Pixar) was 2000 with Dinosaur.
Frozen also opened in China this past week which helped it cruise past the $900M global mark. The five-day launch there was $13.7M – decent but not spectacular – with the international haul climbing to $545.1M. That put the snow sisters at a whopping $913.8M worldwide. Frozen should top the $1 billion mark even before its final release in Japan. Leading territories to date are the U.K. with $60.3M and Korea with $57.7M.
The bro comedy That Awkward Moment dropped 37% in its second weekend to an estimated $5.5M putting the ten-day cume at just $16.8M for Focus. Close behind was the Mark Wahlberg hit Lone Survivor with an estimated $5.3M, down 25%, for a new haul of $112.6M.
Vampire Academy represented the latest best-selling young adult novel to fail to sell tickets when adapted into a movie. The Weinstein Co. release debuted to a wimpy $4.1M, according to estimates, averaging a puny $1,533 from 2,676 theaters. Young females were the target audience and they just did not find it necessary to come out to theaters and pay top dollar to see the PG-13 film. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Beautiful Creatures, and The Host are other movies based on young adult novels that also failed to take off at the box office over the last 12 months, but Vampire‘s performance was significantly worse.
Audiences abandoned The Nut Job with LEGO in the marketplace and the weekend take fell 48% (the largest in the top ten) to an estimated $3.8M. Open Road’s sum is $55.1M. Paramount’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit slipped 32% to an estimated $3.6M lifting the underwhelming total to $44.5M. The drama Labor Day grossed an estimated $3.2M, off 38%, for a weak $10.2M cume to date.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $133.7M which was up a muscular 62% from last year when Identity Thief opened at number one with $34.6M; but down 21% from 2012 when The Vow debuted in the top spot with $41.2M.