‘Lego Movie’ Tops Box Office With $69.1 Million for Warner

“The Lego Movie,” the Warner Bros. animated film drawing on the Danish toymaker’s popular building bricks and mini figures, opened with $69.1 million in sales to grab the No. 1 spot in domestic cinemas this past weekend.

“The Monuments Men,” about a World War II platoon rescuing art masterpieces from Nazi Germany, opened with $22 million in U.S. and Canadian cinemas to place second for Sony Corp., Rentrak Corp. said in an e-mailed statement today. “Vampire Academy,” a film about half-human, half-vampire teens, generated $3.9 million in its debut for Weinstein Co., ranking seventh.

“The Lego Movie” gives Time Warner Inc.’s film studio its first No. 1 feature this year, and the best opening of any movie year to date. The picture has been buoyed by favorable reviews and was second only to 2010’s “Toy Story 3” in advance ticket sales for an animated movie on Fandango.com. The appeal to families and the international awareness of Lego make it likely Warner Bros. will build more films around it, according to Phil Contrino, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com.

“It will be a massive hit for Warner Bros.,” said Contrino. “It’s just grabbing families, 20-somethings and 30-somethings who grew up playing with Legos. I’d be very surprised if a sequel didn’t happen.”

Strong Showing

“The Lego Movie” was directed by Chris Miller and Phil Lord, whose credits include the 2009 animated Sony hit “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.” It was produced in association with Lego A/S, the Billund, Denmark-based manufacturer of the toy bricks, and Village Roadshow Pictures.

In addition to being the largest opening so far this year, “The Lego Movie” debut was the biggest ever for a PG-rated film in February, according to Rentrak. After capitalizing on the “obviously well-known Lego brand” and a paucity of offerings for kids to generate much better-than-expected sales, the film may be now set up for a strong showing in future weeks thanks to the typical lack of competition during the season, said Paul Sweeney, an analyst with Bloomberg Industries.

“It’s the time of year where if something captures the imagination, it can really take off,” he said, adding that he also expected a sequel. “I’m sure the producers are extraordinarily happy.”

Conformist World

Featuring the voices of Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Chris Pratt, Morgan Freeman and Will Ferrell, the movie follows Emmet, a construction worker who happily lives in a conformist world until he discovers the evil Lord Business is trying to glue the universe together. Emmet’s life is upended when he is mistaken for the Special, a master builder who is expected to save the world.

The film features characters Lego has licensed from studios over the years to make its toys, including Batman, Superman, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Han Solo from the “Star Wars” movies.

“The Lego Movie” garnered a 95 percent positive rating on review aggregator website RottenTomatoes.com. It cost $60 million to make, according to Box Office Mojo, and was projected to collect $53 million by BoxOffice.com. “Ride Along” previously had the top weekend of the year with domestic sales of $41.5 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

“‘The Lego Movie’ is strikingly, exhilaratingly, exhaustingly fresh. Not plastic at all,” wrote Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times.

Enemy Lines

As well as appealing to domestic audiences, “The Lego Movie” should prove a success with international moviegoers, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak.

“Legos know no borders,” he said. “It’s not limited to any one territory. There’s just a great nostalgia for the product.”

“The Monuments Men,” directed, co-written and starring George Clooney, was projected to take in $20.5 million.

It follows a group of aging museum directors, curators and art historians in a race against time to rescue art trapped behind enemy lines as the German army is ordered to destroy everything amid the fall of the Third Reich.

It features an ensemble cast, with Matt Damon, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett.

The movie cost $70 million to produce, according to Box Office Mojo, and garnered a 34 percent positive rating on RottenTomatoes.

“‘The Monuments Men’ talks a better game than it can deliver,” wrote Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times. “It can’t decide what kind of a film it wants to be and so ends up failing across a fairly wide spectrum.”

Blood Lust

“Vampire Academy,” the third debut in wide release, stars Zoey Deutch as Rose Hathaway, a guardian of peaceful, mortal vampires called the Moroi. Rose’s legacy is to protect the Moroi from the bloodthirsty, immortal Strigoi vampires.

The film was projected to collect $6.6 million for Weinstein Co. and garnered a 12 percent positive rating on RottenTomatoes.

Among returning films, “Ride Along,” the buddy movie with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, collected $9.6 million to place third for Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures.

“Frozen,” Walt Disney Co.’s animated movie about two princesses in an icy world, took in $6.9 million to place fourth. It’s become one of Disney’s biggest pictures, collecting $368.6 million domestically since its release on Nov. 22.

“Lone Survivor,” a military drama about Navy SEAL commandos starring Mark Wahlberg, collected $5.6 million to place fifth for Universal Pictures.

Weekend revenue for the top 10 films rose 61 percent to $132.7 million from the year-earlier period, Rentrak said. Domestic box-office sales year to date are $1.13 billion, up

10.5 percent from a year earlier.

The following table has U.S. movie box-office figures provided by studios to Rentrak. The amounts are based on gross ticket sales for Feb. 7 to Feb. 9.

                     Rev.  Pct.             Avg./  Total
Movie               (mln)  Chg. Theaters   Theater (mln)  Wks
1 THE LEGO MOVIE     $69.1   --   3,775  $18,291    $69.1   1
2 THE MONUMENTS MEN   22.0   --   3,083    7,137     22.0   1
3 RIDE ALONG          9.6   -20   2,800    3,425    105.3   4
4 FROZEN              6.9   -23   2,460    2,794    368.6  12
5 LONE SURVIVOR       5.6   -22   2,869    1,940    112.9   7
6 AWKWARD MOMENT      5.2   -40   2,809    1,864     16.5   2
7 VAMPIRE ACADEMY     3.9    --   2,676    1,466     3.9    1
8 THE NUT JOB         3.8   -48   3,004    1,249     55.0   4
9 JACK RYAN           3.5   -34   2,139    1,651     44.4   4
10 LABOR DAY          3.2   -38   2,584    1,233     10.1   2

Top 10 Films Grosses:

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
    $132.7         $82.4      61.1

Year-to-date Revenue:

     2014          2013
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
     $1,132        $1,024      10.5

Source: Rentrak Corp.