Weekend Box Office: ‘Lego Movie’ assembles awesome opening weekend

Much like the aggressively catchy theme song featured in The Lego Movie, everything was awesome at the box office this weekend for the toy adaptation.

The film managed a phenomenal $69.1M, the second largest February opening ever behind 2004’s The Passion of the Christ ($83.85M), and displaced Ride Along’s three-week hold on the No. 1 spot. It also ranks alongside the best-ever openings for an original (non-sequel/prequel) animated film, just behind The Lorax’s $70.2M in 2012.

Released through Warner’s new animation think-tank, the film was able to achieve a level of appeal across all age groups as most people have, at one point or another, played with the tiny building bricks. In recent years, the Lego brand has also expanded into a successful series of video games and a horde of branded lineups such as Lord of the Rings, Marvel Super Heroes and the DC Universe.

That crossover appeal, which the advertisements heavily featuring characters like Batman and Superman, was also a contributing factor and really give the impression that the film was going to be an experience akin to dumping a bucket of Lego characters together and all the fun that entails. It features a compelling animation style, where everything in the film is made of Legos (even the smoke and fire), using a unique mixture of CGI and stop-motion animation that separated it from the pack.

With the giant opening and the near-universal positive review, the film, directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the team behind Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street, should be the first blockbuster of the season, especially with a whole month before the release of Dreamworks’ Mr. Peabody & Sherman as well as a holiday weekend next week. It’s little wonder that Warner Bros., who’ve been oddly absent from the animation arena, is already assembling a sequel.

The Lego Movie wasn’t the only one that did well; acting as counter-programming for adults, The Monuments Men, directed by and starring George Clooney with a grand ensemble including Matt Damon, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett, opened to $22.7M, marking a career best for George Clooney.

Featuring an all-star cast in a story about a WWII platoon attempting to rescue art masterpieces in Nazi Germany, the film was expected to be a cross between Inglourious Basterds and Ocean’s Eleven. It was originally scheduled for Christmas but was delayed to give it more development time as well as avoiding a crowded field.

However, less than stellar reviews seem to show that the film is more dry, almost more of a history lesson than a thrilling caper. Still, its cast and setting should make it appealing for adults for the foreseeable future.

In the latest, and hopefully final, attempt to make the next Twilight, Vampire Academy managed a meager $4.1M, which is worse than any of the young-adult fantasy films that bombed last year (Beautiful Creatures and The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones both opened to less than $10M, and The Host to $10.6M).  Directed by Mean Girls director Mark S. Waters, it seemed to have a more aloof, self-referential approach to the genre. Sadly, the film’s non-existent marketing campaign and poor reviews has likely put a stake through this film’s heart.

With the failure of the latest young-adult fantasy, Lionsgate has to be a bit skeptical about the upcoming Divergent, although that film has a more compelling plot and cast. Still, the teenage audience that studios are so desperately trying to appeal to are a fickle bunch and it remains to be seen if another Twilight or Hunger Games is waiting in the wings.