'The LEGO Movie' Demolishes Expectations with Awesome $69.1M Debut

on February 09, 2014 by Daniel Garris

Warner's The LEGO Movie exceeded rising expectations in a big way this weekend with an estimated first place debut of $69.11 million. That represented the second largest unadjusted opening weekend performance ever for the month of February, behind only the $83.85 million debut of 2004's The Passion of the Christ. The LEGO Movie easily generated the largest debut ever for an animated film from Warner Bros. (the studio's previous high-water mark for an animated film was the $41.53 million debut of 2006's Happy Feet). A strong marketing campaign, strong pre-sales thanks in part to a large built-in fanbase, a relatively empty marketplace heading into the weekend and very strong critical reviews are all factors that helped anticipation surge for The LEGO Movie in the days leading up to its release. Following in the footsteps of Frozen, family audiences are clearly still in the mood for well-received animated fare.

The LEGO Movie took in $17.14 million on Friday, was up an awesome 80 percent on Saturday to gross $30.94 million and is estimated to fall 32 percent on Sunday to take in $21.04 million. That places the film's estimated opening weekend to Friday ratio at a strong 4.03 to 1. That is a sure sign of just how heavily the film is skewing towards family audiences, as well as a sign of strong early word of mouth. It should also be noted that Saturday holds were especially strong in general; due in part to Friday's grosses being deflated a bit by the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. With the aid of its previously mentioned strong critical reviews, a strong A rating on CinemaScore, next weekend's family friendly holiday frame and no new direct competition for family audiences hitting the marketplace until the release of Fox's Mr. Peabody & Sherman on March 7, it appears to be a given that The LEGO Movie will hold up especially well going forward.

The audience breakdown for The LEGO Movie skewed towards male moviegoers (55 percent), while moviegoers under the age of 18 represented a sizable 41 percent of the film's audience. Clearly, four-quadrant appeal was a key factor in the film's success this weekend.

While it debuted in a very distant second place, Sony's The Monuments Men still performed respectably in its own right this weekend with an estimated second place debut of $22.7 million. Despite largely negative critical reviews, the George Clooney directed World War II film starring Clooney and Matt Damon debuted on the high-end of pre-release expectations. The Monuments Men was also aided from the relatively empty marketplace heading into the weekend and was likely helped out a bit by representing Clooney's first return to theatres after the runaway success of last year's Gravity. The film opened 79 percent ahead of the $12.71 million start of 2009's The Men Who Stare at Goats and 40 percent behind the $38.05 million debut of 2009's Inglourious Basterds.

The Monuments Men took in $6.9 million on Friday, increased a healthy 38 percent on Saturday to gross $9.55 million and is estimated to fall 35 percent on Sunday to take in $6.25 million. That places the film's estimated opening weekend to Friday ratio at an encouraging 3.29 to 1. The film received a respectable B+ rating on CinemaScore. The audience breakdown for The Monuments Men skewed slightly towards female moviegoers (52 percent) and heavily towards moviegoers over the age of 35 (75 percent).

The weekend's other new release, The Weinstein Company's Vampire Academy opened all the way down in seventh place with a very disappointing estimated $4.10 million. The Mark Waters directed young adult adaptation marks yet another under-performer when it comes to lower profile young adult adaptations. Similarly to what occurred with Justin Bieber's Believe back in December, a relatively high level of online chatter for Vampire Academy ultimately made absolutely no impact on the film's grosses. Vampire Academy opened 46 percent softer than the $7.58 million opening weekend of last year's Beautiful Creatures (which was deflated a bit from that film opening on a Thursday). With a lackluster B- CinemaScore, a per-location average of just $1,533 this weekend and four new wide releases hitting the marketplace in the coming week, Vampire Academy obviously won't be around in theatres for long.

Even with the additions of The LEGO Movie and The Monuments Men in the marketplace this weekend, a number of holdovers were still able to hold up well due in part to last weekend's grosses being deflated by Super Bowl XLVIII. Universal's Ride Along was the weekend's top holdover with an estimated $9.4 million to place in third. The break-out action comedy starring Kevin Hart and Ice Cube was down just 22 percent from last weekend and likely received an extra boost this weekend from moviegoers who wanted to catch the film before Sony's About Last Night (also starring Hart) arrives in the marketplace this coming Friday. Ride Along surpassed the $100 million domestic milestone this weekend (making it the first release of 2014 to do so) and has now grossed $105.12 million to date.

Disney's Frozen was down a slim 23 percent from last weekend to place in fourth with an estimated $6.91 million. This weekend's hold for the computer animated blockbuster was especially impressive given the break-out performance of The LEGO Movie with family audiences. Frozen has grossed a massive $368.68 million to date and has now surpassed the $368.07 million final domestic gross of Despicable Me 2 to become the third highest grossing release of 2013 domestically (behind only The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Iron Man 3).

Focus' That Awkward Moment held up unexpectedly well in its second weekend to place in fifth with an estimated $5.54 million. The low-budget Zac Efron led comedy was down 37 percent from last weekend. Efron's previous vehicles have tended to be quite front-loaded towards opening weekend, so it appears that the opening weekend of That Awkward Moment was deflated a bit by the Super Bowl. That Awkward Moment has grossed $16.85 million in ten days, which is slightly below expectations and places the film 28 percent behind the $23.49 million ten-day take of 2010's Charlie St. Cloud (which fell 62 percent in its second weekend to gross $4.70 million).

Tags: That Awkward Moment, Frozen, Ride Along, Vampire Academy, The Monuments Men, The LEGO Movie

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