It was clear that The LEGO Movie was going to be big, but ‘big’ in February usually means something different than at other times of the year. Most projections had the animated film opening between $45 and $60 million. Instead, the big screen debut of the classic toy brand earned an estimated $69.1 million from 3,775 locations. That counts as big in any month, and stands as one of the best openings ever for an original animated feature. The Monuments Men and Vampire Academy were also new this weekend, though only the former ended up successfully counterprogramming the LEGO juggernaut.
|1.||The LEGO Movie||$69,110,000||$69.1|
|2.||The Monuments Men||$22,700,000||$22.7|
|5.||That Awkward Moment||$5,400,000||$16.8|
|8.||The Nut Job||$3,809,000||$55|
|9.||Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit||$3,600,000||$44.4|
After a couple of slow weeks, the domestic box office was due for a big win, provided the right movie came along. By all accounts, The LEGO Movie was that right movie. Based on the venerable toy property, the film had a broader appeal than most family-oriented animated features – if the number of people who have continued building with LEGO well into adulthood is any indication. The LEGO Movie also received fantastic reviews, hitting 96% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. In the world of animation, that’s a level of praise usually reserved for Pixar films alone. Frozen, for example, only reached 62%, while Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax was ranked at 54%.
The LEGO Movie is now 2014’s highest debut by a considerable margin. It also comes in as the second-highest February debut of all time, behind the $83.8 million of The Passion of the Christ. In terms of animated features, this morning’s LEGO estimate is among the best openings ever for an original (re: non-sequel) title. The all-time record belongs to The Simpsons Movie, which debuted to $74 million in the summer of 2007. Like The LEGO Movie, The Simpsons also appealed to adults and was a hit with critics (90% on Rotten Tomatoes). Unlike The LEGO Movie, The Simpsons featured standard 2D animation. With LEGO’s 3D surcharge and the global popularity of its brand, the movie should top the $527 worldwide gross of The Simpsons by the end of its run.
When viewed next to The LEGO Movie, the $22.7 million of The Monuments Men looks a bit underwhelming. But on the contrary, the Sony release performed better than expected in its debut. By now you probably know that the film, co-written, directed and starring George Clooney, was supposed to be released last December. The decision to postpone took the period drama out of the Oscar race, which seemed like a rmoot point once the critics weighed in. The Monuments Men currently ranks 30% on Rotten Tomatoes. With that in mind, Sony claimed it was expecting about $18 million this weekend. The film has a reported budget of $70 million, so it has a ways to go before it is profitable. Still, for a film with such poor word of mouth, this weekend’s opening has to be seen as a win.
This weekend’s final new release could not even claim the modest victory of The Monuments Men. Vampire Academy is the latest film to try to capture a piece of the Twilight audience, and the latest film to fail miserably. From 2,676 locations, Vampire Academy took in just $4.1 million this weekend, falling short of its very modest $10 million goal. That is the lowest debut of any feature so far this year, including last weekend’s Labor Day. Compared to other young-adult misfires, Vampire Academy also looks shabby, opening below the 2013 flops Beautiful Creatures and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.
This weekend’s overall box office was up over 55% from last year, when Identity Thief opened with $34.5 million. Next weekend should also show a significant increase over 2013, provided The LEGO Movie lives up to its promise. Four new releases will open over the Presidents Day/Valentine’s Day frame. Among them, About Last Night has the best shot at topping $30 million (provided audiences have not overdosed on Kevin Hart post-Ride Along). The Robocop reboot, which opens next Wednesday, is expected to open to about $25 million, with Endless Love and Winter’s Tale each falling between $10-$15 million.