Thanks to its strong brand and broadly-appealing marketing, The LEGO Movie stacked up one of the highest openings ever for an original animated movie this weekend. The Monuments Men also had a solid debut, while Vampire Academy was the latest young-adult debacle. The LEGO Movie took first place with $69.05 million, which ranks second all-time in the month of February behind The Passion of the Christ ($83.8 million). That fantastic debut is among the best-ever for an "original" (i.e. not a sequel or prequel) animated movie ever along with Up ($68.1 million), Dr. Seuss' The Lorax ($70.2 million) and The Incredibles ($70.5 million). For reference, the current record-holder is The Simpsons Movie with $74 million. The LEGO Movie's success can be attributed to a handful of factors. The brand itself is remarkably strong: most people have some experience with the tiny building blocks, and that experience is generally positive. Warner Bros. built on this brand recognition with a marketing campaign that had something for everyone. In particular, the pop culture references and self-aware humor—plenty of which came from Lego Batman—helped lure in adults, which is the key to success with animated movies (after all, they're the ones paying for it). To that end, it didn't hurt that The LEGO Movie received nearly unanimous praise from critics (95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes).
It's also worth noting the significance of The LEGO Movie's release date. For whatever reason, studios have historically avoided releasing major family movies in February. LEGO's success is the latest evidence that a movie can work anywhere on the release schedule, so long as the competitive marketplace isn't too challenging (in this case, Frozen and The Nut Job combined for less than $11 million this weekend).
Other studios already seem to be taking note: next February sees the release of SpongeBob SquarePants 2, while an untitled Illumination Entertainment project is currently slated for February 2016. LEGO's audience was 55 percent male—high for an animated movie, but not surprising given the content—and 59 percent over the age of 18. Only 35 percent of ticket sales came from 3D showings.
Moviegoers awarded The LEGO Movie an "A" CinemaScore, which implies that it will receive strong word-of-mouth. Based on similarly-received animated movies, it's a foregone conclusion that LEGO winds up with over $200 million total.
Opening at 3,083 locations, The Monuments Men took second place with a solid $22 million. That's easily the highest opening ever for a movie directed by George Clooney, and it's in the same ballpark as recent adult-skewing movies like Captain Phillips ($25.7 million) and Argo ($19.5 million). Chalk this up to an appealing cast and a marketing campaign that put an emphasis on the kind of true story that has plenty of appeal with older audiences.
To be specific, The Monuments Men's audience was 52 percent female and 75 percent over the age of 35. They awarded the movie a middling "B+" CinemaScore; combined with the poor reviews (33 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), this would normally suggest a quick drop-off. Movies that skew older tend to hold better, though, so a total north of $60 million is definitely doable.
Coming off Super Bowl weekend, most holdovers had light drops. Ride Along eased 20 percent to $9.6 million, which brings its total to $105.3 million. It's the first 2014 release to pass $100 million (Lone Survivor is technically a 2013 movie).
Despite facing direct competition from LEGO, Frozen was off only 23 percent this weekend. It added $6.9 million for a new total of $368.6 million, which makes it the highest-grossing 2013 animated movie ahead of Despicable Me 2. That Awkward Moment took sixth place with $5.2 million. That's off only 40 percent, which is a good hold for a movie with an audience made up primarily of young women.
At 2,676 locations, Vampire Academy bombed with $3.9 million. In comparison, Beautiful Creatures opened to $7.6 million around the same time last year. Vampire Academy's debut is in the same league as young-adult flops like Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant ($6.3 million) and The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising ($3.7 million). Vampire Academy joins Beautiful Creatures, The Host and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones in the list of recent young-adult fantasy adaptations that were obviously made in an effort to be "the next Twilight." After this recent run, it's likely that studios think twice about chasing after this audience. Around-the-World Roundup Frozen continued its march towards $1 billion this weekend. The animated sensation added $24 million overseas, over half of which came from a $13.7 million debut in China. It's already Disney Animation's biggest movie ever there. It's now earned more than $913 million worldwide, and is going to get close to $1 billion before it reaches Japan next month.
Ahead of its U.S. debut, Robocop expanded to 47 markets and earned $20.2 million (new total of $28.7 million). Among major markets, its only first place debut was in France ($3.04 million). It also opened in the U.K. ($3.7 million), Australia ($2 million), Germany ($2 million) and Italy ($1.3 million). The LEGO Movie opened in 34 foreign markets this weekend and earned $18.1 million. According to Warner Bros., those markets typically represent less than one-third of international box office. Its only major territories were Mexico ($4.1 million), Spain ($2 million) and Brazil ($1.8 million). By the end of the month, the movie will have reached the U.K., France, Italy and Russia. Mr. Peabody & Sherman opened in first place in the U.K. with $6.6 million. The DreamWorks Animation movie reaches the U.S. on March 7th.