There is no such thing as a sure thing. That is especially true in Hollywood, where a movie can have all the makings of a box office hit, only to fail spectacularly. Even a property that is already a proven commodity can underperform, as has been the case with The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. That sequel’s performance is one that Warner Bros.’ chief executive Kevin Tsujihara doesn’t completely understand, as he explained:
It didn’t do as well as tracking would’ve suggested, which was a little puzzling. The first movie was so fresh and so different. We need to continually rethink the experience, but the Lego brand is incredibly strong. On the game side, it’s been an incredible franchise. We acquired [Lego video game maker] TT Games 12 years ago, and it really was a cornerstone of everything we’ve done in games.
Kevin Tsujihara doesn’t have any easy answers as to why The Lego Movie 2 underperformed, especially when the tracking indicated it would do much better than it ultimately did. However, as he told the Los Angeles Times, he still views the Lego brand as especially strong as it has performed well for Warner Bros. on the video game side of the business. On the movie side, the studio has to keep evaluating and may need to shake things up with the Lego franchise.
It’s a refreshingly candid answer from Kevin Tsujihara because as the head of Warner Bros. Entertainment, the buck stops with him. He’s responsible and accountable for everything, and Time Warner shareholders look to him when movies don’t perform like they’re supposed to. In this instance, he isn’t writing off The Lego Movie 2’s performance or saying that it was expected, he’s acknowledging that it underperformed while still professing confidence in the brand itself.
You can understand why The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part’s performance was so perplexing to Kevin Tsujihara. The first Lego Movie in 2014 seemed like a cheap attempt to cash in on brand awareness of a toy without a story. That film ended up becoming a smash hit critically and commercially, and as Kevin Tsujihara said, it was something fresh and different. The Lego Movie made $257.7 million domestically and $469.1 million worldwide.
The sequel, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part was tracking at a $55 million opening weekend, which wouldn’t match the $69 million of the original, but would still be pretty good. It fell way short of that, making only a little over $34 million opening weekend and about $137 million worldwide to date according to Box Office Mojo. For perspective, that worldwide sum is less than what The Lego Batman Movie made just domestically.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part isn’t done in the theaters yet but it will clearly be viewed as a bit of a disappointment compared to other Warner Bros. movies in the Lego stable.
So what happened? It’s honestly tough to say, and I’m sure Kevin Tsujihara has experts who get paid a lot to figure out the answer to that question. From my layman’s perspective, I don’t think it was a failure of marketing because the movie looked fun just like the first. It was released in the same time period as the first film and didn’t really have much in the way of family-friendly competition, unless, of course, families were waiting and prioritizing How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World at the end of the month, which did perform.
While not quite as acclaimed as the first film, The Lego Movie 2 was still a definite critical success. Although it didn’t have quite the same audience reaction, at least by the CinemaScore metric, for which the sequel earned an “A-“ to the first film’s “A.” You eliminate those factors and it’s tough to say what you’re left with, except that maybe audiences weren’t as enthusiastic about Lego as a franchise versus just a film or two.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is now playing. Check out our 2019 release schedule to keep track of all of this year’s biggest releases.