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– by Joseph Jammer Medina

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.

RELATED: Kingsman: The Golden Circle Tops IT At the Box Office, LEGO Ninjago Disappoints

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?

Apparently so.

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.


NEXT PAGE: The LEGO Ninjago Movie, And Where Warner Bros. Should Go Next –>


 

 

  • Kronx

    Ninjago isn’t quite as well known. No one should really have been expecting it do THAT well in the beginning. Word of mouth may help, but it’s not going to get the same group of adults that the other two movies got.

  • Kindofabigdeal

    I liked the first two Lego movies but have no desire to watch Ninjago.

    • Joseph Jammer Medina

      Any reason why?

      • Kindofabigdeal

        I don’t know. I guess I’m not that familiar with the product. It took word of mouth to get me into the Lego movie. I was also skeptical but ended up loving it. I like me some Batman so that made sense.
        But this Ninjago looks like what we originally thought Lego movie was going to be, a long ad.
        Who knows, maybe I’ll catch it on Netflix and regret not watching it.

  • M@rvel

    You talk about how everyone thought a LEGO movie would fail, pretty sure it was just you guys that thought that.. I’ve been playing with LEGOs as long as I can remember, and the second they announced a film I knew it would be a hit. Please stop talking about your opinions as if they are shared by everyone in the world…..

  • HUNTERofTROLLZ

    There is no mystery here, The LEGO Ninjago Movie is not an IP or film that started with high demand, nor brand attachment. Add the voice talent of a Franco, that is, the lesser Franco and there’s NO BO draw.

  • Saranac

    The other issue is that there are already plenty of Ninjago movies already made, just look on Netflix – the market is flooded.

  • Moby85

    I wasn’t nearly as high on both “LEGO Movie” and “LEGO Batman” as most of the population was. The first film was “meh” but while I enjoyed LEGO Batman more, I still have no plans to buy it or see it again.

    At the end of the day making a movie based on LEGO I think was a gimmick novelty with limited staying power. And said limited power is up…

  • Ninjago has a lot more issues to deal with.
    1. Ninjago isn’t as well known.
    2. Ninjago is LEGO-based so making a LEGO Ninjago movie is nothing different from the original IP.
    3. The kids interested in Ninjago already have a version to watch at home and the movie didn’t really seem like it was breaking any new ground. My nephews are fans but had little interest in the movie (although they thought the cat joke in the trailer was funny.)
    4. Making Batman sillier and campier than usual is a draw since kids haven’t really seen that in their lifetime. But Ninjago is for slightly older kids so many probably saw it as, “Oh, that looks like it’s for little kids” and thought it wasn’t cool.

    The Lego movie franchise was always gimmicky and at-risk of getting played out sooner than later but if they use it as a way to make kid-friendly versions of grown up movies, it could have legs. I mean, who isn’t going to go see a LEGO Fast & The Furious movie? LEGO The Martian (except the LEGO dude falls down a drain and has to be saved)? Jurassic LEGO? Bond. LEGO James Bond?

Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.