Box Office Preview: Can THE LEGO MOVIE 2 Match the Impact of the Original Animated Film?
Welcome to my first Box Office Preview column for The Beat! Some might remember me as ComingSoon.net’s The Weekend Warrior for about 15 years, and I wrote about box office for various other places before and since then. Hopefully, you’ll be able to read my thoughts on the weekend box office every Wednesday right here, but I will add the caveat that box office predicting is not an exact science even when you have advance tracking data. There are ways to gauge interest in movies, but the wonderful thing about the box office is that it’s always full of surprises.
After a couple slow weekends, things pick up with four new movies in wide release with varying degrees of interest.
THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART (Warner Bros.)
The big release this weekend is Warner Bros’ The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, which is indeed a sequel to the 2014 animated movie which grossed $469 million worldwide, mostly based on the popularity of the toys, and the clever humor of Philip Lord and Chris Miller, who return to write and produce the sequel.
The original LEGO Movie grossed $258 million in North America after a $69 million opening almost exactly five years ago. The sequel offers a lot more of the same things that families and “older kids” appreciated, including superheroes like LEGO Batman, voiced by Will Arnett, plus more than a few fun cameos.
This one is directed by Mike Mitchell, who previously directed Trolls and Shrek Forever After for DreamWorks Animation, and the regular voice cast of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Arnett, Alison Brie, Charlie Day and Nick Offerman is joined by the super-hot Tiffany Haddish as Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi, who kidnaps Wyldstyle and Emmett’s other friends to attend her royal wedding… but with nefarious reasons. The movie also introduces Rex Dangervest, a more heroic character also voiced by Pratt, which is an obvious reference to his Jurassic Worldcharacter Owen, complete with raptor helpers.
Other than The Lego Movie and its pseudo-spinoff The LEGO Batman Movie, the Warner Animation Group hasn’t had quite the success as Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks Animation and Universal’s partnership with Illumination Entertainment, but there is definitely some anticipation and demand for more of Lord and Miller’s style of humor after their hit Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which remains in the top 10 after 9 weeks.
Warners will be opening the sequel as wide as possible into over 4,100 theaters, quite a bit wider than the original’s 3,775 theaters, although the diverse array of competition for older audiences (see below) may keep it from opening quite as high as the original though still in the low $60 million range.
WHAT MEN WANT (Paramount)
The rest of the new movies this weekend will be all about counter-programming, and in that sense, Paramount’s semi-remake What Men Want, which puts a gender twist on Nancy Meyers’ 2000 film starring Mel Gibson as a man who suddenly can hear women’s thoughts. This time, it’s Empire star Taraji P. Henson as a woman who can hear men’s thoughts, an idea which is just as rife for comedy as the Meyers’ movie.
That movie was definitely geared more towards women, and it managed to pull in $182.8 million domestically, and What Men Want, directed by Adam Shankman (Hairspray, Rock of Ages), is similarly going to be of interest to women, particularly African-American women with mega-producer Will Packer (Girls Trip, Ride Alone) gearing this one towards an audience he knows very well, having had many huge hits.
While Taraji P. Henson has many fans of her Golden Globe-winning character Cookie Lyon on the Fox show Empire, she hasn’t really exploded as a movie star. Last year, she starred in the action-thriller Proud Mary, as well asTyler Perry’s Acrimony, which grossed $20 and $43 million, respectively, which isn’t great. This remake teams her with superstar producer Will Packer, who has created quite a string of comedy hits, including Girls Trip and last year’s Night School, both starring Tiffany Haddish.
Fortunately, What Men Want has such a great premise that even if Henson delivers a moderately-decent performance, it’s going to be an easy sell for women sans kids looking for a good time with their lady-friends. Husbands and boyfriends will probably have to be dragged to see this on date night, since they’re more likely to be interested in one of the other movies.
Reviews probably won’t play too much of a factor in the movie’s success, as it is likely to open with somewhere between $21 and $25 million this weekend. Hoping for a similar $30 million-plus opening ala Girls Trip and Think Like a Man might be somewhat overly-optimistic. It should do fine if word-of-mouth and buzz keeps it going through the rest of February with a nice bump on Valentine’s Day next Thursday.
COLD PURSUIT (Lionsgate Premiere/Summit)
Lionsgate’s Cold Pursuit is an English-language remake of a 2014 Norwegian film by director Hans Petter Moland called In Order of Disappearance with Moland back behind the camera for the remake. The original movie starred Thor’s Stelland Skarsgård as a snowplow driver who swears revenge against the criminals responsible for his son’s death. Liam Neeson replaces him in the role of Nels Coxman, a Colorado-based snowplow driver in the same situation with Neeson joined by Laura Dern as his wife and Emmy Rossum from Shameless as a local police officer.
It’s a premise and execution worthy of an American remake, and Neeson has a pretty good track record with this type of action-thriller, most notably the Taken series. Both of Neeson’s 2018 films, The Commuter and Widows, opened in the $12 to 14 million range with the latter doing slightly better overall. Cold Pursuit seems to have more direct competition than The Commuter did, plus it’s a little more off the beaten path. Even so, reviews have mostly been favorable so far, even though one can probably expect it to end up slightly lower in the $10 to 12 million range this weekend.
THE PRODIGY (Orion Pictures)
Lastly, there’s the horror film The Prodigy from MGM division Orion Pictures, which is about as high concept as they come, about a mother whose young genius son may also be a sociopath. This film delves into the horror subgenre of evil kids made famous by horror classics like The Omen with newer iterations like Orphan (2009) and 2016’s The Boy. Directed by indie horror filmmaker Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact) and starring Taylor Schilling from Orange Is the New Black, it seems like the type of horror film that would be the perfect alternative for older teens not interested in LEGOs. The current incarnation of Orion Pictures doesn’t really have much of a track record for wide releases, which might keep this from doing as well as some of the movies mentioned above that opened over $10 million. It will probably have to settle for fourth place in the $7 to 8 million range.
As far as the other movies, Glass will probably drop down to fifth place after three weeks at #1 with so much competition for all audiences, and a few other movies will vanish from theaters altogether as they give up screens for the new movies.
This Week’s Box Office Predictions:
- The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (Warner Bros.) – $61.5 million N/A
- What Men Want (Paramount) – $23.6 million N/A
- Cold Pursuit (Lionsgate/Summit) – $10.4 million N/A
- The Prodigy (Orion Pictures) – $7.5 million N/A
- The Upside (STX) – $6.3 million -33%
- Glass (Universal) – $5 million -49%
- Miss Bala (Sony) – $3.3 million -52%
- Green Book (Universal) – $3.1 million -31%
- Aquaman (Warner Bros.) – $2.7 million -44%
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse (Sony) – $2.6 million -41%
As far as new limited releases, the highest-profile theatrical option is two-time Oscar-winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar (A Separation) Farhadi’s Everybody Knows from Focus Features, a Spanish language drama starring Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz.
Also, if you have kids, they might be psyched for Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year, a Chinese-language animated film based on the popular British sensation that was released by STXfilms and Alibaba on Tuesday to celebrate the start of the Lunar New Year.
For something more off the beaten path, there’s Jonas Akerlund’s Lords of Chaos (Gunpowder and Sky), a comedic biopic about a Norwegian black metal band called Mayhem, and Oscar nominee Sam Elliot in Robert D. Krzykowski’s genre-bending The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Big Foot from RLJE Film.
Next week, it’s Valentine’s Day/President’s Day weekend with three very different new movies: Battle Angel Alita, Happy Death Day 2U, and the semi-rom-com Isn’t It Romantic? so check back next Wednesday for my thoughts on those movies.