This past weekend saw the release of The LEGO Ninjago Movie, the latest film in the LEGO Movie franchise. If you didn’t realize it hit theaters, you weren’t alone. The marketing for it wasn’t so hot, and when all said and done, it made just over $20 million, a far cry from what the studio was hoping, or even what trackers were thinking it would make.
What’s more, it marked yet another notch down in performance from its predecessors, The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie. From a business perspective, this is a trend that is less than appealing for Warner Bros., and with that in mind, we can’t help but wonder if the LEGO Movie franchise is in trouble.
So let’s take a trip down memory lane with this franchise, and figure out if this performance for LEGO Ninjago is one that the studio should actually be concerned about.
The LEGO Movie
A few years back, it was revealed that Warner Bros. would be making a LEGO Movie. This was an idea that was understandably met with a whole lot of ridicule from all over Hollywood. What story could they possibly tell about LEGOs that could have any merit? Was the industry so devoid of ideas that they had to stoop so low as to making a film about kid building block toys?
But, we had our collective mouths shut when we actually sat down and watched The LEGO Movie. Not only was it a smart and funny film, but it actually succeeded on an emotional level, with its third act having a heart-wrenching twist that few saw coming.
Audiences responded in droves, and the film made a strong $69 million on its opening weekend, and went on to make $469 million worldwide. Not a bad run for a movie we were ready to hate from day one.
The LEGO Batman Movie
Even though The LEGO Movie had managed to shatter our expectations, going into The LEGO Batman Movie, I wasn’t so sure. Batman was a fun side character in the previous film, and I didn’t really see him capable of actually carrying his own movie.
His character was a huge tool, and in my mind, I always thought of him as “Batman if is parents didn’t actually die.” Whereas Bruce Wayne usually embodies the playboy stereotype as a cover, this Batman seemed to genuinely be that douchey playboy. He was funny, but I thought his schtick would get old very quickly.
Again, I was wrong.
The film was arguably as good as the first LEGO Movie, albeit in a different way. This one played out more as a Batman parody film than just a LEGO film, and it also managed to hit all the right emotional beats — all while paying unparalleled homage to the Caped Crusader and his decades long history.
Critics agreed. The film was another success for Warner Bros., settling in at a comfortable 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. However, while it was a success critically, it was a step down at the box office.
It started its run lower than its predecessor, taking in $52 million off its $80 million budget. The film went on to make $311 million.
It was by no means a flop, but after the performance of that last one — along with the branding of Batman, we wouldn’t blame them if they were hoping to see it knock up the box office performance a few notches.
Again, this movie still made plenty of money, but already, signs of a declining franchise made themselves known, and the next film wouldn’t have the Batman branding to fall back on.