(Bloomberg) -- Movie audiences showed there is a limit to their appetite for all things Lego, with “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” falling short of forecasts in its debut weekend.
The film took in $35 million in the U.S. and Canada -- good enough for first place at the box office while trailing the $55 million projected by Box Office Pro going into the weekend.
The film is the fourth feature-length movie for the Warner Bros. franchise, including the original “Lego Movie” in 2014 and others devoted to Batman and the Ninjago world of martial-arts characters, and the results over the next few weeks will be watched to determine whether more will follow.
Dan Lin, a producer of all four films, said in an interview before the weekend that he and the studio haven’t yet committed to a fifth movie. “The Second Part” is an opportunity to see if moviegoers still want to see characters depicted as Lego figurines. If it’s a hit, more projects may come, including TV shows.
“The Second Part” takes some risks, Lin said. There’s a lot more music and new characters, including Tiffany Haddish as a shape-shifting queen and Stephanie Beatriz of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” as the space-suited General Mayhem.
“It’s a test,” Lin said from his Lego-adorned Los Angeles office. “It’s a way for us to experiment. There are lot of new voices.”
The movie’s mixed reception may just reflect the sluggish start to 2019 for the broader industry, said Paul Dergarabedian, researcher Comscore Inc.’s senior media analyst.
“The movie marketplace has been slow and lacking momentum since the beginning of the year and this malaise, albeit temporary, is definitely impacting even the newer releases’ ability to garner much excitement,” he said. Other new releases this weekend were “What Men Want” in second place, “Cold Pursuit” in third and “The Prodigy” in sixth, Comscore reported.
Warner Bros. isn’t sweating the sequel’s first-week performance, said Jeff Goldstein, the company’s president of domestic distribution. Given the film’s A- rating on CinemaScore and 84 percent approval on Rottentomatoes.com, plus the potential to pick up more family viewers over Valentine’s Day and the upcoming Presidents’ Day weekend, “we have lots of room to run,” he said.
The original “Lego Movie” in 2014 proved to be a surprise hit with kids and adults who turned out for the film’s cheeky humor and catchy theme song, “Everything is Awesome.” Made for about $60 million, it grossed $469 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.
The next picture in the series, 2017’s “The Lego Batman Movie,” brought in $312 million worldwide, while “The Lego Ninjago Movie,” released the same year, delivered a disappointing $123 million.
The “Ninjago” film was based on a specific toy line, and that was a mistake that Lin said he won’t repeat.
“The Second Part” has the benefit of mostly positive reviews: It’s recommended by 85 percent of critics surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes. The film features the voices of Chris Pratt as the hero Emmet Brickowski, and Elizabeth Banks as Lucy, his Ninja-like partner.
The Lego business, which includes video games, TV shows and the ubiquitous toys, is considered a key pillar of Warner Bros.’ movie-franchise strategy, which also includes D.C. Comics and the “Harry Potter” series. The studio was one of the many media businesses acquired last year when AT&T Inc. bought Time Warner.
Two of the other new releases also fell short of estimates. The comedy “What Men Want” brought in about $19 million for Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures, Comscore said, less than a projection of $24 million. The film stars Taraji P. Henson of “Empire” and “Hidden Figures” as a woman who can hear men’s thoughts.
“Cold Pursuit,” a revenge film starring Liam Neeson, brought in about $10.8 million for Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., Comscore reported. That put the movie at a distant third and below the $11.5 million estimate. The Irish actor stirred up controversy ahead of the film’s release when he used racially insensitive remarks in an interview when discussing the rape of a friend. He apologized.
(Updates with executive comment in ninth paragraph.)
--With assistance from Anousha Sakoui and Hailey Waller.
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