February 10, 2019 / 4:26 PM / 13 days ago

Box Office: 'Lego Movie 2' falls short with $34 million debut

FILE PHOTO: Cast members Chris Pratt and Tiffany Haddish pose in front of a pop-up lego cafe during a photocall to promote the forthcoming film 'Lego Movie 2' in London, Britain February 1, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - The domestic box office might want to start sending out an S.O.S. After a disappointing start to 2019, industry watchers were hoping Warner Bros.’ “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” would help turn things around and bring audiences back to their local multiplexes.

The animated sequel did easily topped box office charts with $34.4 million from 4,303 locations, but it wasn’t able to build the buzz that the studio anticipated heading into the weekend. Early estimates from both Warner Bros. and independent tracking services suggested “The Lego Movie 2” would open with at least $50 million for the weekend. But unlike the film’s anthem, everything is was not awesome for the sequel in its first three days in theaters.

Despite an enthusiastic reception, “The Lego Movie 2” had one of the smallest openings in the franchise based on the popular toys, falling only behind 2017’s spinoff, “The Lego Ninajgo Movie” ($20 million). It debuted almost 50 percent behind its predecessor, 2014’s “The Lego Movie,” which pulled off a surprisingly strong $69 million launch before ending its theatrical run with $469 million worldwide.

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the duo known for movies like “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and “21 Jump Street,” returned to write and produce “The Lego Movie 2.” Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, and Will Arnett once again lent their voices for “The Lego Movie 2,” while Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, and Maya Rudolph joined the cast. It’s the fourth film in the “Lego” franchise, which also includes “The Lego Batman Movie.” Each entry cost between $60 million and $80 million before taking marketing into account.

“The Lego Movie 2” doesn’t have a ton of time to make up ground before two titles also geared toward family audiences — Universal’s “How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World” and Disney-Marvel’s “Captain Marvel” — arrive in the coming weeks.

“The Lego Movie 2” wasn’t the only newcomer to the marquee this weekend. Paramount’s comedy “What Men Want” opened in line with expectations and landed in second place, generating $19 million when it launched in 2,912 locations. Directed by Adam Shankman and starring Taraji P. Henson, “What Men Want” is a gender-swapped remake of Nancy Meyers’ 2000 film “What Women Want.”

Arriving in third is Lionsgate’s “Cold War,” Liam Neeson’s action vigilante thriller that launched with $10.9 million from 2,630 screens. Neeson made headlines this week for making racially charged comments about his friend’s rape. The studio canceled the premiere’s red carpet in the wake of Neeson’s remarks, but controversy didn’t completely deter moviegoers since the revenge thriller opened on par with expectations. Even so, “Cold Pursuit” marks one of the lowest openings of Neeson’s career.

The final new release of the weekend, “The Prodigy,” secured sixth place with a $5.8 million debut from 2,530 locations. “Orange Is the New Black” actress Taylor Schilling stars in the supernatural thriller, directed by Nicholas McCarthy. It centers around two parents who are forced to investigate if their child is possessed by evil spirits.

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