HEAT VISION

Box Office: Why 'Lego Movie 2: The Second Part' Isn't Clicking

Skewing young, the sequel opened well behind expectations and at about half of its predecessor's earnings.

There was nothing awesome about the box office debut of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.

The sequel opened to an estimated $34 million-$35 million in North America, well behind an expected $50 million to $55 million, and half as much as the 2014 film. Blame the movie's surprisingly soft performance on franchise fatigue, according to box office analysts. A less-than-inspired marketing campaign is another factor, analysts add.

Lego Movie 2 is also struggling badly overseas, where it launched to $18 million from 63 territories for a worldwide bow of $53 million. Globally, the $100 million movie needs to earn $200 million-$225 million to break even.

It has been five years since The Lego Movie, directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, opened to a huge $69 million. It took Lord and Miller, who wrote and directed 2009's animated Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs for Sony and also directed 2012's live-action 21 Jump Street, to the next level. and it put Warners in the animation game.

The studio responded by plotting two spinoffs that hit theaters within months of each other. The Lego Batman Movie started off with $53 million domestically in February 2017, followed that September by The Lego Ninjago Movie with a cautionary debut of $20.3 million on its way to earning just $123 million worldwide.

"I certainly think franchise fatigue is a major factor in the massive property devaluation of this WB franchise," says Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations. "Audiences probably could have done without Ninjago. And the truth of the matter is, five years is a long time. The Second Part seemed like a retread from the get-go, resting on the laurels of the original."

Lord and Miller returned to write and produce The Second Part, but they weren't the only high-profile names to return. Lego Movie 2 sees Chris Pratt once again voice the role of everyman construction worker Emmet Brickowski, and Will Ferrell voice the evil Lord Business. Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Alison Brie and Nick Offerman also reprise their roles, while new additions to the voice cast include Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz and Maya Rudolph.

There were no obvious warning sings that Lego Movie 2 was in trouble. Heading into the weekend, it boasted a Rotten Tomatoes score of 84 percent. While that didn't match the 95 percent bestowed on the 2014 movie, it's still a strong score. 

But when Friday box office returns started coming in, executives at Warners were rattled, both by the actual grosses and exit surveys revealing that the sequel was playing far younger than the first Lego Movie, which drew its strength from appealing to college students and adults, in addition to kids. This time, 48 percent of ticket buyers were under the age of 18, compared with 41 percent in 2014.

"The marketing just seemed to be on autopilot. Look, I know Warner Bros. didn't feel like they had to sell the sequel, but the declining grosses for Lego Batman and Lego Ninjago should have been a huge red flag. Reconnecting with their core audience obviously didn't happen," says Bock.

"The more and more I look at this series, the original was likely an event because of the novelty," he continues. "You just can't cuddle a Lego."

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