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The Weekend Movie Takeaway: February 11, 2019

February 11, 2019

Following several stagnant weeks at the box office, the industry was looking to kick back into gear over the weekend. Yet even with new titles on offer — one of them the sequel to a box office blockbuster — the takings were less than encouraging.

That blockbuster sequel, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, arrives five years after the unanticipated smash success of 2014’s The Lego Movie, which earned more than $250 million at the domestic box office ($69 million of that on opening weekend alone).

The sequel earned only half that number — $34.4 million — over the weekend; a disappointing and even perplexing result from multiple perspectives.

Before the release of the original Lego Movie, audiences could’ve been forgiven for wondering why a movie based on a toy brand without a central narrative even existed. But the final product showed that an engaging story executed creatively can succeed, despite low expectations.

The main takeaway from the sequel’s inability to replicate that success seems to be a lesson in brand management. In the time between the original Lego Movie and its sequel, there have been two other big-screen Lego films: The Lego Batman Movie, which earned $175 million and The Lego Ninjago Movie ($59 million). The weekend numbers suggest the novelty of seeing the famous bricks come to life on the big screen has been dimmed by the minor onslaught of Lego movies.

What Men Want, the Taraji P. Henson riff on the 2000 Mel Gibson film What Women Want, opened in second place, earning $19 million. The numbers indicate that Henson is a box-office force to be reckoned with, and that a film doesn’t have to be especially beloved to be the subject of a gender-flipped re-make.

When her TV show Empire became an instant sensation, it seemed to mint Henson as a major new star; a designation that has borne mixed results with films like Hidden Figures, Acrimony and Proud Mary. The success of What Men Want confirms Henson’s ability to open a movie.

Another re-make, Cold Pursuit, took third place at the weekend box office. Based on the 2014 Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance, the film’s $10 million gross is considerably lower than opening numbers for lead actor Liam Neeson’s other action thrillers.

The takeaway here could be that audiences are becoming a bit wary of Neeson in these kinds of roles, though it’s difficult to ignore the racism controversy that surrounded the actor during the promotion of the film.

Before the film was released, Neeson said that this would be his final action role. That seems pretty much assured now.

Low-budget horror film The Prodigy (released by Orion) also debuted over the weekend. While a $6 million opening gross might not seem like something worth celebrating, the numbers point to the film going into the black, once again illustrating that horror, no matter how small or inconsequential, will always bring young audiences to theaters.

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