'The Lego Movie' Ups The Competition For Animated Movies

Feb 6 2014, 1:40pm CST | by

Once upon a time, Disney was the only animated game in town. The Mouse House dominated with movies like The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. When Pixar came along to challenge that legacy, Disney simply bought the studio and folded properties like Toy Story and Cars into its many, profitable, divisions.

DreamWorks Animation became a healthy competitor with franchises like Shrek and Kung Fu Panda but for a long time, other studios were shut out of the animation game.

But animated movies can offer a great return on investment. Children, and their exhausted parents, will go to see animated movies more than once in the theater and then snap up the movies for home viewing. There are plenty of lucrative merchandise possibilities (lunch boxes, t-shirt, toys etc.) and the movies almost always lend themselves to sequels.

So it’s not surprise that studios like Fox, Sony and Universal have gotten into the game. Fox has had some big hits with the Ice Age movies (total franchise gross $2.8 billion) and a sequel to the 2011 hit Rio is slated for April. Universal struck it huge with Despicable Me. The sequel was the (domestic) third highest-grossing film of 2013 bringing in $970 million at the global box office. Even Sony is having good luck with animation. Movies like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Hotel Transylvania have helped offset duds like After Earth.

Now it looks like Warner Bros. is poised to become another player in the animation game. As my colleague Scott Mendelson pointed out, WB has been a serious laggard in the world of animation. The studio consistently ranks as the top, or second-highest, grossing studio every year thanks to franchises like Batman, Harry Potter and The Hobbit. But Warner Bros. has struggled when it comes to animation, despite having a treasure trove of legacy characters in its library. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Marvin the Martian are all Warner Bros. characters. Although we mostly think of super heroes in terms of big blockbuster films, Warner Bros. also owns DC Comics, home to Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.

With The Lego Movie, Warner Bros. might not just have a hit movie on its hands but a valuable franchise. Exhibitor Relations expects the film will top the box office this weekend with $52 million. That number could go even higher. Despicable Me opened to $56 million in 2010 and that film didn’t have half the buzz The Lego Movie has going into this weekend.

The whole concept of the movie lends itself to franchises. The filmmakers went for an old-school look with the film so instead of the smooth animation we’ve come to expect from the Lego TV shows, the movie has the look of a brick film made by a kid (albeit a kid with an incredibly expensive computer system).

The Lego universe is vast. There are city sets, ninja sets, hero sets, even dinosaur sets. It’s just the kind of sandbox creative types can play in for years coming up with more and more profitable films (which then lend themselves to toys, merchadise, TV spin offs etc.). The Lego Movie could finally be Warner Bros.’s ticket to the big game.

Follow me on Twitter at DorothyatForbes.

Source: Forbes Auto

 
 
 

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