The 3D family comedy “The Lego Movie” launched with a spectacular $17.1 million Friday, putting itself on course for an eye-popping $61 million first weekend and Warner Bros. back in the movie animation game.
Sony’s George Clooney art heist saga “The Monuments Men” got off to a solid start and was second with $7 million Friday, and is looking at a little more than $20 million for the weekend. But the $1.7 million first day for the weekend’s other wide opener, the Weinstein Company’s book-based teen fantasy “Vampire Academy,” sucked, and it will struggle to hit $4 million for the three days.
“Ride Along,” the three-time reigning champ, was third with $2.5 million Friday. The Kevin Hart-Ice Cube comedy from Universal is looking at an $8.7 million fourth week, which would lift it over the $100 million mark domestically.
Concerns that East Coast snowstorms and bad weather might chill the debut for “The Lego Movie” melted away Friday, and that helped it blow past analysts’ projections. Moviegoers turned out in force at the 3,375 mainly 3D theaters showing the PG-rated family film and gave it an “A” CinemaScore. That’s in line with the strong reviews it’s drawn from critics, who have it at 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
If the estimate for the three days holds, “The Lego Movie” will have pulled off the second-biggest February opening ever, behind only the $83 million rolled up by Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” back in 2004.
Village Roadshow, the Lego Group, Vertigo Entertainment and Lin Pictures are behind the $60 million kids film, the first animated release from Warner Bros. since “Happy Feet 2” three year ago. A franchise has been part of the plan from the start, and already work is under way on a sequel.
“Lego Movie” was directed and co-written by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the team behind “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and “21 Jump Street,” and this certainly keeps their string of hits alive. “Chris Pratt of TV’s “Park and Recreation” voices the movie’s hero Emmet, who is mistaken for the master builder who can save the Lego universe from Lord Business (Will Ferrell). The huge voice case includes Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Channing Tatum, Will Forte, Nick Offerman,Alison Brie, Jonah Hill and Morgan Freeman.
If the estimates for Sony’s “The Monuments Men” are on the money, it will finish the three days with an opening between that of “Argo” ($19.5 million) and “Captain Phillips” ($25.7 million), and both of those similarly older-skewing films went on to top $100 million domestically. The film was co-financed by Fox, which is distributing overseas.
Clooney produced and wrote “Monuments Men” with Grant Heslov, and directs and stars as well. The cast includes Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman and Bob Balaban.
The critics have been rough on “Monuments Men” (33 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), but audiences at 3,083 theaters gave it a “B+” CinemaScore. The studio moved the film from its original release date at Christmas, and that appears to be paying off.
“Vampire Academy” marks the first foray into the young-adult market for the Weinstein Company, which picked up the modestly budgeted film based on the Richelle Mead novels at Berlin’s European Film Market last year.
Originally titled “Blood Sisters,” the PG-13 fantasy stars Zoey Deutch, Danila Koslovsky and Lucy Fry as academy girls caught in the crossover world of vampires and humans. It’s directed by Mark Waters of “Mean Girls” fame, and scripted by his brother Daniel Waters.
The critics tore it up and audiences at 2,676 theaters weren’t thrilled, giving it a “B-” CinemaScore.