×

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

  • 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    Film Review: 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    In one of the intermittent revealing moments in “QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight,” a documentary about the films of Quentin Tarantino that’s like a familiar but tasty sundae for Quentin fans, we see Tarantino on the set of “Pulp Fiction,” shooting the iconic dance contest at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. As John Travolta and Uma [...]

  • Zombieland Double Tap

    Why Emma Stone Was Haunted by Fear of Vomiting While Shooting 'Zombieland: Double Tap'

    SPOILER ALERT: The following story contains a slight spoiler for “Zombieland: Double Tap.” The zombie slayers are back! Ten years after Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin first killed dead people walking in “Zombieland,” they’ve reunited for “Zombieland: Double Tap.” “You take stock of your life a little bit,” Stone says of [...]

  • Hereditary

    The Best Horror Films to Stream Right Now

    Good horror movies aren’t always easy to scare up, but with Halloween on the horizon, Variety has compiled a list of some of the best horror films available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. NETFLIX Apostle Cult horror meets religious hypocrisy in this creepy gothic thriller, which follows prodigal son Thomas Richardson, who returns home [...]

  • Brett Gelman

    'Stranger Things' Star Brett Gelman Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse'

    Brett Gelman, best known for his scene-stealing roles in “Fleabag,” “Stranger Things” and “Love,” has joined Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of Tom Clancy’s “Without Remorse.” Jamie Bell and Jodie Turner-Smith are also on board. Jordan is starring as operations officer John Clark, also known as John Terrence Kelly, a former Navy SEAL who [...]

  • US director Francis Ford Coppola holds

    Francis Ford Coppola Honored With Prestigious Lumiere Prize by Thierry Fremaux, Bong Joon Ho

    Francis Ford Coppola took the stage to claim the Lumière Festival’s lifetime achievement honor, the Lumière Prize, in a stirring celebration that marked the festival’s 10th edition on Friday night in Lyon, France. The four-time Academy Award winner accepted the prize after a series of video tributes, musical performances and testimonials from family, friends and [...]

  • 'Human Capital' Sells to Vertical Entertainment,

    Liev Schreiber, Maya Hawke's 'Human Capital' Sells Rights to DirecTV, Vertical Entertainment (EXCLUSIVE)

    Vertical Entertainment and DirecTV have jointly acquired the North American distribution rights to “Human Capital,” an official selection of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival from director Marc Meyers. The film stars Oscar winner Marisa Tomei, Liev Schreiber, Peter Sarsgaard, and Maya Hawke. The ensemble drama follows numerous interconnected stories surrounding a hit and run, [...]

  • Robert Zemeckis

    Robert Zemeckis in Talks to Direct Live-Action 'Pinocchio' for Disney (EXCLUSIVE)

    Robert Zemeckis is in early talks to direct Disney’s live-action “Pinocchio.” Andrew Miano and Chris Weitz will produce through their company Depth of Field with Weitz penning the script. “Paddington” director Paul King had originally been tapped to direct but had to leave the project for unknown reasons at the beginning of the year. David [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content