Box Office: 'Lego Movie' Morphs Into Instant Franchise, Opens to Massive $69.1 Million

8:40 AM PST 02/09/2014 by Pamela McClintock

UPDATED: George Clooney's "Monuments Men" isn't so shabby either, debuts to a solid $22.7 million, while "Vampire Academy" bombs; "Frozen" races past $900 million globally to become one of the top animated titles of all time.

BERLIN -- Bringing one of the world's most popular toys to the big screen, Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow's The Lego Movie opened to a gigantic $69.1 million in North America, the second-biggest opening of all time for the month of February and launching an instant franchise.

Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ holds the record, debuting to $83.8 million in late February 2004.

Lego, nabbing an A CinemaScore, was made in association with the Denmark-based Lego Systems A/S. The voice cast includes Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman. Warners and Village Roadshow made the 3D animated pic with Lin Pictures and Vertigo Entertainment.

Overseas, the film opened to a strong $18.1 million from 34 markets, many of them smaller. It grossed $4.1 million in Mexico, despite the fact that the Lego brand is relatively new there.

STORY: Inside the 'Lego Movie' Premiere With Chris Pratt and Will Arnett

One of the best-reviewed animated films of all time, Lego follows an ordinary minifigure named Emmet who is mistaken for the hero who can save the Lego universe. With the aid of Batman, Uni-Kitty and Benny, among other characters, he must learn to defeat the tyrant Lord Business.

"I think this sends a signal that we are very interested in this space," said Warners domestic distribution chief Dan Fellman. "You will be hearing more from us, and we will definitely be talking very shortly about our plans for Lego."

Males made up 55 percent of Lego's audience, while 41 percent of ticket buyers were under the age of 18.

George Clooney's latest directing effort, The Monuments Men, enjoyed a pleasing debut despite largely negative reviews, grossing $22.7 million and coming in No. 2 domestically. It's the biggest opening for a film Clooney has directed and underscores his appeal among adults.

From Sony and 20th Century Fox, the $70 million World War II comedy-drama stars Clooney opposite Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville and Cate Blanchett.

Monuments Men, earning a B+ CinemaScore, was originally supposed to roll out over Christmas, but its release was pushed back until this weekend. On Saturday, it made its international premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, receiving a standing ovation. Berlin was a natural fit for the movie, since it was shot in Germany.

Monuments Men, made in association with Babelsberg Studio and based on the nonfiction book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, follows a ragtag Allied squad of out-of-shape museum directors, artists, architects, curators and art historians tasked with saving important works of art before they are destroyed by the Nazis.

"We are very pleased with the opening, and it came in on the high end of our expectations. It's a fascinating story and a great ensemble cast. Audiences really like the film," said Sony's distribution chief Rory Bruer.

The weekend's third new offering, Vampire Academy, quickly tanked, earning only $4.1 million and coming in No. 7. The movie is the latest YA film adaptation to disappoint outside of the Twilight and Hunger Games films. Vampire Academy was financed by IM Global and Reliance, and released in the U.S. by The Weinstein Co.

Based on Richelle Mead's 2007 novel and directed by Mark Waters, Vampire Academy stars Zoey Deutch, Danila Kozlovsky and Lucy Fry. The story revolves around three friends who are dragged back to St. Vladimir's Academy, where they must contend with a dangerous hierarchy, along with lies and secrets.

Among holdovers, Universal's Ride Along came in No. 3 in its fourth weekend, grossing $9.4 million and zooming past the $100 million mark to finish Sunday with a cume of $105.2 million.

Amazingly, Disney's animated blockbuster hit Frozen stayed high up on the chart despite Lego. Coming in No. 4 domestically with $6.9 million, Frozen's North America cume is now $368.8 million, passing Despicable Me 2 ($368.1 million).

Worldwide, Frozen passed the $900 million mark to become the No. 4 animated title of all time, not counting reissues. Its total through Sunday is an estimated $913.8 million.

Overseas, MGM and Sony's RoboCop reboot grossed $20.2 million from 47 markets on the eve of its North American debut for an early foreign total of $28.7 million. Universal's 47 Ronin inched its way toward the $100 million mark at the foreign box office, but that won't stem a loss. The pic finished Sunday with a worldwide total of $99.8 million and a domestic cume of $38 million.

Here are the top 10 estimates for the weekend of Jan. 31-Feb. 2 at domestic box office:

Title, Weeks in Release/Theater Count, Studio, Weekend Total, Percentage Drop, Cume

1. The Lego Movie, 1/3,775, Warner Bros./Village Roadshow, $69.1 million.

2. The Monuments Men, 1/3,083, Sony/Fox, $22.7 million.

3. Ride Along, 3/2,867, Universal, $9.4 million, -42.2%, $93 million.

4. Frozen, 11/2,754, Disney, $9.3 million, +2.1%, $360 million.

5. That Awkward Moment, 2/2,809, Focus Features, $5.5 million, -36.6%, $16.8 million

6. Lone Survivor, 7/2,869, Universal, $5.3 million, -25.4%, $112.6 million.

7. Vampire Academy, 1/2,676, The Weinstein Co., $4.1 million.

8. The Nut Job, 4/3,004, Open Road Films, $3.8 million, -47.7%, $55.1 million.

9. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, 4/2,139, Paramount, $3.6 million, -32.2%, $44.5 million.

10. Labor Day, 2/2,584, Paramount, -37.6%, $3.2 million, $10.2 million.

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