Here are your three-day box office returns (new releases bolded):
1. The Lego Movie - $69.1 million
2. The Monuments Men - $22.7 million
3. Ride Along - $9.3 million
4. Frozen - $6.9 million
5. That Awkward Moment - $5.5 million
6. Lone Survivor - $5.2 million
7. Vampire Academy - $4.1 million
8. The Nut Job - $3.8 million
9. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - $3.6 million
10. Labor Day - $3.2 million
The Big Stories
It is a great pleasure this week to say that a great movie has topped the box office. Not just the kind of drought-ending taste of goodness that comes once we get past January and a movie is surprisingly good. We're talking about a genuinely fantastic, best-of-year-type good. Last week we gave you the list of films in the past year that managed to rule the box office for three straight weeks. Here it is again for the heck of it (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Fast & Furious 6, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Ride Along). Well you can take to the bank that word of mouth is going to be so tremendous on Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's The Lego Movie that it's going to take Liam Neeson and Jesus to stop it.
Lego My Eggo
We are not going to waffle here in the opinion that The Lego Movie is and will remain one of the best films of the year; animated or live action. It goes without saying that 2013 was one of the worst years for animated films ever (quality, not financially as Despicable Me 2, Frozen, Monsters University and The Croods took over $3.1 billion worldwide alone). There are currently nine other animated films on the schedule for 2014 (including the dreadful looking Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return and Planes: Fire and Rescue) but with a new film from Laika (The Boxtrolls) and potentially interesting films like Mr. Peabody & Sherman and Big Hero 6, this already looks to be a better year. In fact, How to Train Your Dragon 2 may be the only film to best Lego's final tally this year; which incidentally opens on June 13, the same day as Lord and Miller's sequel 22 Jump Street.
The $60 million start of the $60 million-budgeted Lego Movie is the second highest February opening ever. (Once again, beaten by Jesus.) Overall 63 films have started with an opening between $60-86 million and 48 of them have gone on to gross at least $200 million in the U.S. This may be a foregone conclusion given that it has an "A" from Cinemascore and even critics are over the moon for it with a 96% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. It is not going to get beat by RoboCop and the parade of Valentine's Day date fare (About Last Night, Endless Love, Winter's Tale) opening next week. The studios barely want critics to see Pompeii and 3 Days to Kill the following week. By Lego's fourth week it will be faced by a high-concept Liam Neeson thriller (Non-Stop, which should keep Universal's year looking good after Endless Love is forgotten) and Fox's Son of God, which is nothing more than a stripped-down version of its Bible miniseries with a few deleted scenes. My advice - just go to church and then go see The Lego Movie again that weekend. It's message is just as good for kids AND adults.
The Dirty Ocean's Seven
George Clooney has never had a problem drawing big-name casts to his projects. Though The Monuments Men is going to end up being his highest grossing to date. Leatherheads and The Ides of March opened to $12.6 and $10.4, respectively, with Ides sticking around long enough to collect $40.9 million at the domestic box office. Clooney's best efforts as a director (Good Night and Good Luck and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) with a combined haul of $47.5 million will likely also be beaten if the particular word out of the mouths of those checking out his latest film isn't "boring."
As an actor, Clooney has only been a part of six previous films to start with over $20 million. Three of those were the Ocean's movies, the recent Gravity, then The Perfect Storm and his Batman film. (All Warner Bros. films, incidentally.) Sony clearly knew what it was doing when it moved Monuments out of its December slot. The studio told us it was because it needed more time to finish its special effects. But in reality it knew it didn't have an Oscar contender by any stretch and that kept focus on its big one, American Hustle, which is currently headed towards over $140 million and maybe an award or two. Not bad for a $40 million production. Monuments Men, on the other hand, cost $70 million and is unlikely to reach that here giving Daniel Loeb something to put in his back pocket. The film must gross about another $115 million overseas to give it a chance to break even. How has Clooney's films done overseas over the years?
Gravity ($430), Ocean's Eleven ($267.3), Ocean's Twelve ($237.2), Ocean's Thirteen ($194.1), The Perfect Storm ($146.1), Batman & Robin ($130.8), Burn After Reading ($103.3), The Descendants ($94.6), Intolerable Cruelty ($84.8), Up in the Air ($83.0), The Peacemaker ($69.2), One Fine Day ($51.3), Three Kings ($47.1), Michael Clayton ($43.9), Syriana ($43.1), Out of Sight ($40.1), The Men Who Stare at Goats ($36.5), The Ides of March ($35.0), The American ($32.2), O Brother Where Art Thou? ($26.3), Good Night and Good Luck ($23.0), Confessions of a Dangerous Mind ($17.0), Solaris ($15.0), Leatherheads ($9.9), The Good German ($4.6)
So without Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock, Mark Wahlberg or a Batman suit, the Lake Como resident looks like he draws bigger crowds on the streets than in the theaters. Which is unfortunate because there are a lot of fine movies on there. Nearly all of them better than The Monuments Men too.
Can We Avoid a "Sucks" or "Bites" or "Anemic" Pun?
All of them certainly apply to this weekend's Vampire Academy, which Weinstein was hoping to turn into a franchise. If you doubt that, try sitting through it to get to its sequel-baiting finale. Six books in this series and the first one is opening to less in its first three days than The Mortal Insturments: City of Bones ($7.87 million), Beautiful Creatures ($7.5 million) and Cirque du Freak ($6.2 million). It's $4.1 million barely beat The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising ($3.74).
From the director of Mean Girls and the writer of Heathers sounds like a solid pedigree though it feels like Waters found the remnants of old Kevin Williamson script in his fireplace. Even the director of Clueless couldn't get her snappy-tongued female vampires film (Vamps) into more than one theater. The year is young and there are only 11 other films to measure it against, but Vampire Academy currently owns the weakest opening for a wide release on the year. Even less than Jason Reitman's Labor Day and the Weinstein Co. did more in any single day to make sure press and audiences knew about Vamp Acad than Paramount did to help its movie.
Erik Childress can be seen each Thursday morning on WCIU-TV's First Business breaking down the box office on the Movies & Money segment.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]
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