Box office preview: 'The Lego Movie' could be 2014's first big 'block'buster

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

George Clooney and gorgeous teenage vampires have a formidable box office foe this weekend: Legos. And it looks like both will crumble in the face of the tiny plastic figurines.

The idea of a Lego movie seems absurd on paper. A cynical, nostalgia-based cash grab akin to Battleship exploits, right? Well, Warner Bros. and its co-financier Village Roadshow seem not only to have avoided those trappings, but created a film that transcends the medium thanks to wry writing and directing team Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who charmed with both Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street. EW’s Owen Gleiberman wrote in his “A” review: “It may be a helter-skelter kiddie adventure built out of plastic toy components, but it’s fast and original, it’s conceptually audacious, it’s visually astonishing, and it’s 10 times more clever and smart and funny than it needed to be.”

In a box office market where Frozen has dominated the family slate for over 11 weeks (with an honorable mention for The Nut Job), The Lego Movie looks primed to walk away with 2014′s biggest opening to date.

Here’s how things might play out this weekend:

1. The Lego Movie — $43 million
Beyond the positive reviews (hello, 98% on Rotten Tomatoes!) and general hype, The Lego Movie is also opening on an enormous number of screens — 3,650 theaters nationwide, many of which will be in 3-D. The PG-rated $60 million Warner Bros. movie could open in the $40 million-$45 million range, sneaking past Ride Along‘s $41.5 million January debut to snag the highest opening weekend slot of the still young year. Plus, Fandango advance sales have Lego tracking behind only Toy Story 3 (ahead of Frozen and Despicable Me 2) when compared with other animated pre-sellers.

2. The Monuments Men — $15 million
George Clooney’s latest directorial effort about a group deployed on a mission to save precious works of art from the Nazis will likely take second place in its debut weekend, despite lackluster reviews (a “C-” from EW, and a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes) and a very public delay that pushed the film solidly out of awards contention. His all-star cast, including himself, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, and Cate Blanchett, is probably the biggest draw for the Sony pic, which could bring in around $15 million from 3,083 theaters. The Monuments Men is estimated to have cost around $70 million to make, and seems to be tracking strong among adult audiences. Still, as a director, Clooney doesn’t have a particularly stellar box office history. In 2011, Clooney’s The Ides of March opened at $10.5 million, and 2008′s Leatherheads opened at $12.7 million.

3. Ride Along — $9 million
After three weekends at No. 1, the Kevin Hart/Ice Cube comedy will likely fall another 40 percent or so for an under $10 million weekend. Universal’s $25 million comedy looks poised to top $100 million by Sunday — comparable to last year’s early comedy success, Identity Thief (also Universal), which had earned $107.4 million after four weekends in theaters.

4. Frozen — $6 million
Frozen still seems somewhat unstoppable even in its 12th weekend in theaters. Last week’s sing-along debut saw a minuscule drop from the prior weekend (2 percent) but now has to compete against the buzzy debut of The Lego Movie. Its domestic total is hovering around $360.7 million with more than $504 million in foreign sales. The question now is whether it will pass the $1 billion mark worldwide.

5. Vampire Academy — $5 million
The Weinstein Company acquired the distribution rights to the YA adaptation last year in Berlin, meaning they didn’t have to fork over any dollars to make the modestly budgeted movie. Mean Girls director Mark Waters helmed the pic, which stars Zoey Deutch and Lucy Fry. This is new territory for The Weinstein Company, which acquired it with the thought that the movie could turn into a potential franchise. Richelle Mead wrote six books in her series, which have sold around 8 million copies in 35 countries. The movie wasn’t screened for critics, though, which is its own stigma to battle. Also, a slew of recent YA adaptations have missed at the box office, including Beautiful Creatures, which earned $19 million domestically on a $60 million budget, and The Mortal Instruments ($31 million on a $60 million budget). While the under-10-year-olds and their parents will likely flock to The Lego Movie, it’s possible that young teens and series fans may opt for this one instead.

Check back throughout the weekend to see how things actually turn out. Also, get ready to binge-watch some ’80s classics (?) in preparation for next weekend’s Valentine’s Day box office battle of the remakes: About Last Night, Endless Love, and Robocop.

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