Yes, the LEGO company produces minifigures of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Also a Valentine Letter Set with bricks that spell “Love You.” But it wasn’t cross-marketing that made The LEGO Movie the No. 1 film of the long holiday weekend that began with Valentine’s Day on Friday and concludes with Presidents’ Day today. It was America’s ardor for a smart, lovable animated feature that has made it the year’s first runaway hit.
On a four-day frame that saw the debuts of three remakes of movies from the 1980s — About Last Night, RoboCop and Endless Love — plus the soppy romance Winter’s Tale, no film could earn even half the money The LEGO Movie will amass by the end of business tonight. Based on the characters and architecture of the Danish toy company, the 3-D cartoon earned $50 million from Friday to Sunday in North American theaters, and is expected to take in another $13.5 million today, for an 11-day domestic total of $143.8 million — an outstanding total for a movie that cost only $60 million to produce, and with even rosier grosses in store.
(READ: Corliss’s review of The LEGO Movie)
Of the rom-coms and rom-drams that opened on Valentine’s Day, About Last Night took Cupid’s arrow to the heart of the bull’s eye. A loose remake of the 1986 Rob Lowe-Demi Moore comedy based on David Mamet’s play Sexual Perversity in Chicago, the new version features an African-American cast headed by star-of-the-moment Kevin Hart, whose action comedy Ride Along is the year’s second highest-grossing movie, at $117.4 million.
About Last Night actually outgrossed The LEGO Movie on Friday, $12.86 million to $12.84 million. But the Last Night fever quickly subsided: the film earned less on Saturday and Sunday combined ($12.83 million) than on the year’s favorite movie date night. It received a generous A-minus rating in the CinemaScore poll of early attendees, who skewed heavily female (63%) and older (58% were 30 or above). Last Night will end the long weekend with $28.5 million.
For now, Hart is giving the best value for money of any Hollywood star; Ride Along cost a thrifty $25 million, About Last Night about half that. That will change as his asking price escalates. Don’t be surprised if his salary for a romcom next Valentine’s Day is as high as Last Night’s $13-million production budget. In 2015, moguls may look back wistfully to Hart’s bargain rates, and think “About Last Year…”
(READ: Corliss on Kevin Hart in Ride Along)
Endless Love, which updated the 1981 arson romance remembered, if at all, for the theme-song duet by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross, earned $13.2 million in its first three days and $15.1 for the full four — a decent return on a $20-million budget. The pairing of perpetual star-of-the-future Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four, Magic Mike) and blond hottie Gabriella Wilde, from Carrie, appealed to a younger demographic: a whopping 80% female and 76% under the age of 25. Translation: teen girls without dates. They awarded the movie an A-minus CinemaScore.
Two movies with much higher price tags had to be considered flops. RoboCop, a remake of director Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 sci-fi hit, cost about $100 million to produce but will earn just $30.3 million for the six days of release since its Wednesday premiere. Joel Kinnaman replaced Paul Weller as the bionic cop, but bland PG-13-rated action couldn’t match the original film’s R-rated violence and cynicism. The audience — 62% male, 64% over 25 — gave it a B-plus CinemaScore.
(READ: Eliana Dockterman’s review of the new RoboCop)
Winter’s Tale, a reincarnation love story based on Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel — the whole weekend was mired in that fun period we might call the Wheeee! Decade — stumbled to an $8.1-million four-day take and looks unlikely to recoup its $46-million production cost. Its leading man, Colin Farrell, also headlined the underperforming remake of Verhoeven’s Total Recall a couple of summers ago, as well as the low-earning Seven Psychopaths and Dead Man Down. Once pegged as top star material, the brooding Irishman can adorn successful films in supporting roles (e.g., Horrible Bosses and Saving Mr. Banks) but doesn’t have the marquee allure to sell a movie to the masses.
Among holdovers, Frozen remained super-cool with another $8.1 million. Released in late November, Disney’s double-princess animated feature has earned $115 million of its $378.1 million domestic take in this calendar year, and bids fair to pass Iron Man Three ($409 million) as the second highest grosser released in 2013 (behind the $423.1 million for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire). Now at $958 million worldwide, Frozen still has not opened in certain markets, including Japan. It could easily become the 18th movie ever to cross the $1 billion threshold in global gross.
(READ: Lily Rothman on Frozen’s Hot Following)
Can The LEGO Movie reach that rarified atmosphere? So far it has earned $51.2 million abroad, but hasn’t yet premiered in many Western European countries where LEGO is the most popular toy brand. Given its sustained success in North America and its considerable potential abroad, the movie could built itself one big brick hit house.
Here are the Monday estimates of the Valentine’s-Presidents’ weekend’s top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, with totals for Friday-to-Sunday (three days) and Friday-to-Monday (four days), as reported by Box Office Mojo:
1. The LEGO Movie, $50 million, three days; $63.5 million, four days; $143.8 million, second week
2. About Last Night, $25.7 million, three days; $28.5 million, four days
3. RoboCop, $21.7 million, three days; $25.6 million, four days; $30.3 million, six days (opened Wednesday)
4. The Monuments Men, $15.5 million, three days; $18 million, four days; $46.2 million, second week
5. Endless Love, $13.2 million, three days; $15.1 million, four days
6. Ride Along, $8.7 million, three days; $10 million, four days; $117.4 million, fifth week
7. Winter’s Tale, $7.3 million, three days; $8.1 million, four days
8. Frozen, $5.9 million, three days; $8.1 million, four days; $378.3 million, 13th week
9. Lone Survivor, $4.1 million, three days; $4.7 million, four days; $119 million, eighth week
10. That Awkward Moment, $3.5 million, three days; $3.9 million, four days; $21.9 million, third week
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