×

Why ‘Lego Movie 2’ Stumbled at the Box Office

Heading into the weekend, Warner Bros. expected everything would be awesome. Instead, executives on the Burbank lot are feeling a pain not unlike the sharp sting you suffer from stepping on a tiny plastic toy.

The studio’s animated sequel “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” fell short of expectations, earning $34.4 million when it opened in 4,303 venues. It was enough to top domestic box office charts, but it arrived $15 million behind even modest estimates from both the studio and independent tracking services, and almost 50% behind the start of its predecessor, 2014’s “The Lego Movie.” It’s not an out-and-out disaster by any means, but for a movie that cost $100 million plus millions more in marketing and distribution fees, it certainly is cause for concern for the future of the franchise based on the popular toy brand.

Despite positive reviews, “The Lego Movie 2” had one of the lowest openings in the cartooned series, ahead of just 2017’s spinoff “The Lego Ninjago Movie” ($20.4 million). It would have been rare to pull off the kind of $69 million debut that “The Lego Movie” surprised with in 2014, but it’s never a good sign for a franchise to see this kind off drop off. After all, sequels are supposed to spark even more enthusiasm as its fanbase grows. And moreover, these movies only get costlier to make. “The Lego Movie 2” is no exception, being the most expensive installment so far.

Insiders at Warner Bros.’ are attributing the decline in ticket sales mainly to diminished enthusiasm for the series in terms of older audiences. The first iteration tapped into nostalgia as the charming and humorous take on the famous toy brand drew moviegoers of all ages. “The Lego Movie 2,” meanwhile, played more like a traditional animated flick geared towards children. The proof is in the numbers. The original film pulled in a broader crowd and saw 41% of ticket-buyers under the age of 18. “The Second Part” skewed younger, and as a result, over 47% of moviegoers were below 18 years old. Ticket prices are less expensive for kids, and without the kind of must-see elements that warrant 3D or Imax screens, it’s causing theaters to reel in less dough.

The family friendly aspect does provide at least one benefit. The studio is hoping to pick up steam next weekend when kids are out of school for President’s Day. But when it comes to films geared toward a younger audience, the box office is only getting more competitive from here. Universal’s “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” hits theaters in two weeks, while Disney-Marvel’s “Captain Marvel” with Brie Larson follows not far behind.

The franchise does have A-list stars like Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, and Will Arnett voicing its main characters, and each new entry is only pulling in bigger names — Tiffany Haddish, Maya Rudolph, and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” star Stephanie Beatriz joined the voice cast this go-around. Bigger names means bigger social media followings to promote the movie on the likes of Twitter and Instagram (Chris Pratt has almost 30 million followers alone). But from the looks of the latest follow-up, the studio may want to reconsider how much it’s shelling out for talent, especially for an animated movie that doesn’t have the added benefit of being able to put their faces on posters.

Industry analysts point to the one-two punch of “The Lego Batman Movie” and “The Lego Ninjago Movie,” both of which were released in 2017, as cause for concern. “The Lego Batman Movie,” the first of the two spinoffs, became a hit and ended its box office run with $312 million worldwide. “Ninjago,” which arrived in theaters just a few months later, didn’t fare as well and Warner Bros. learned the hard way that there can, indeed, be too much of a good thing. It tapped out with $123 million worldwide and left many questioning why the studio decided to debut both in the same year. However, box office sages suggest that waiting five years before the direct sequel and instead dropping two offshoots back-to-back might have been a red flag.

“Absence making the heart grow fonder is a rare situation,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “It’s not the case for kids. They grow out of things quickly.”

Recent animated fare like “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation,” “Incredibles 2,” and “The Grinch” all benefitted from significant overseas followings that helped justify pricier budgets. That hasn’t been the case with this particular franchise. Aside from “Ninjago,” each entry in the “Lego” series has seen its domestic haul dwarf international grosses. “The Lego Movie 2” seems to be be following suit, launching with a tepid $18.1 million in 63 foreign markets. Without international appeal to help buoy ticket sales, it becomes increasingly harder for studios to justify greenlighting new sequels.

“I don’t think it’ll be the end of the line for ‘Legos,’ I think it’s a matter of retooling it,” Bock said.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Dan Stevens

    Dan Stevens Joins Netflix Comedy 'Eurovision'

    “Legion” star Dan Stevens has joined the cast of Netflix feature “Eurovision,” alongside Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams and Pierce Brosnan. The British actor, who made his name in “Downton Abbey” and recently finished a three-year run on FX’s “X-Men” spin-off “Legion” from Noah Hawley, will play Alexander Lemtov, a Russian contestant taking part in the [...]

  • THE-SONG-OF-NAMES

    Tim Roth, Clive Owen-Starrer 'The Song Of Names' To Close San Sebastian

    Starring Clive Owen and Tim Roth, Canadian François Girard’s historical drama “The Song of Names” will close the 67th San Sebastian Festival on Sept. 28. World premiering at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival as a Gala Presentation, “The Song of Names” will play out of competition at what will be its international premiere. Hanway Films [...]

  • Dogwoof Boards Venice-Bound Imelda Marcos Doc

    Dogwoof Boards Venice-Bound Imelda Marcos Documentary ‘The Kingmaker’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Dogwoof has boarded Lauren Greenfield’s “The Kingmaker,” about Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines. The hotly anticipated feature doc delves into the disturbing legacy of the Marcos regime and Imelda’s attempts to aid her son’s political career. It will have its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and then screen at [...]

  • Yao Chen in “Send Me to

    Cheng Cheng Films Nabs North American Rights to China's 'Send Me to the Clouds'

    New York-based distributor Cheng Cheng Films has acquired North American rights to first-time Chinese director Teng Congcong’s comedy drama “Send Me to the Clouds,” starring and produced by A-list actress Yao Chen. The company is planning a theatrical release for fall 2019. “Cheng Cheng has always championed films with strong female leads,” the firm said [...]

  • A White White Day

    Film Movement Brings ‘A White, White Day’ to the U.S. (EXCLUSIVE)

    OSLO  —  New-York based distributor Film Movement has acquired U.S. rights to critically-lauded Icelandic drama “A White, White Day,” today’s opening film at New Nordic Films in Haugesund. In a separate deal, sales agent New Europe Film Sales has closed French-speaking Canada with Funfilm and English-speaking Canada with Game Theory. Hlynur Pálmason’s sophomore pic, “A [...]

  • (from left) Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham)

    Korea Box Office: ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ Topples ‘Exit,’ ‘Roar to Victory’  

    Opening on Wednesday, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” debuted on top of the South Korean box office. Showing on some 1,311 screens nationwide, the UPI release earned $15.1 million from 2.03 million admissions over five days. That included the four-day National Liberation Day weekend. “The Battle: Roar to Victory” remained in second. The [...]

  • Tracy Morgan Netflix stand-up special

    Film News Roundup: Tracy Morgan Joins Eddie Murphy's 'Coming 2 America'

    In today’s film news roundup, Tracy Morgan and Michael Rooker book roles in major movies, and Gravitas buys “Christmas Break-In.” CASTINGS Tracy Morgan has signed on to appear in Eddie Murphy’s “Coming 2 America” sequel as the brother of Lesley Jones’ character. “Hustle & Flow” helmer Craig Brewer is directing the project with Murphy, Kevin [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content