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Tuesday April 23rd, 2019 10:11AM

'The Lego Movie 2' opens No. 1 but everything is not awesome

By The Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — "The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part" was easily the top ticket-seller in theaters over the weekend, but the film's $35 million opening failed to stack up to its expected haul, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The animated sequel had been forecast to draw around $50 million. Instead, it debuted with half the $69 million the 2014 original did, despite good reviews and an A-minus CinemaScore.

With about a $100 million budget, Warner Bros.' "The Lego Movie 2" had been pegged as a dependable, star-studded franchise release sure to kick-start a moribund box office. But after record ticket sales last year, Hollywood's 2019 has gotten off to such a bad beginning that the movie's tagline of "Everything is not awesome" is looking more like accurate industry analysis.

"The expectations were certainly much higher for 'The Lego Movie 2' considering the success of the first installment," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore. "We were all hoping that this would be the weekend that got the momentum of the box office going in the right direction. We're still waiting."

Every weekend this year has been down from the same weekend a year ago. That's a streak sure to continue. Next weekend, the new releases include "Happy Death Day 2U" and "Alita: Battle Angel." What opened the same weekend last year? "Black Panther."

"Momentum is everything at the box office," Dergarabedian said. "And we've sort of lost that."

Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Will Ferrell and others reprise their voice roles in "The Lego Movie 2," while Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph join the cast. Mike Mitchell directs the movie written by original writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

Oversaturation could be to blame. Since the 2014 original, which grossed $469 million worldwide, Warner Bros. released two spinoffs: "The Lego Batman Movie" in 2017 and "The Lego Ninjago Movie" later the same year.

Distribution executives for Warner Bros. declined to comment on the weekend's results.

Until now, 2019's sluggish box office was partly blamed on lack of quality releases, with only a handful of highly promoted films from major studios. This weekend saw a relatively robust slate of releases, including Taraji P. Henson's "What Men Want" and the Liam Neeson thriller "Cold Pursuit." Both did solid if not spectacular business.

Paramount's "What Men Want," a loose remake of the 2000 Mel Gibson comedy, debuted with $19 million. Henson plays a sports agent with the ability to hear men's thoughts in Adam Shankman's film, a kind of gender flip from the original. The film got poor reviews (47 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), but audiences gave it an A-minus CinemaScore.

Lionsgate's "Cold Pursuit" debuted with $10.8 million, a result in line with expectations despite the controversy that surrounded its star in the week leading up to release. Neeson drew heavy criticism after he acknowledged in an interview published last Monday that he wanted to kill a random black person when a close friend told him she had been raped by a black man.

Neeson later appeared on "Good Morning America" to say he's not a racist. Organizers for the New York premiere of "Cold Pursuit" canceled the film's red carpet.

Orion Pictures' horror thriller "The Prodigy" also debuted, with $6 million.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. "The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part," $35 million ($18.1 million international).

2. "What Men Want," $19 million.

3. "Cold Pursuit," $10.8 million.

4. "The Upside," $7.2 million.

5. "Glass," $6.4 million.

6. "The Prodigy," $6 million.

7. "Green Book," $3.6 million.

8. "Aquaman," $3.3 million.

9. "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," $3 million.

10. "Miss Bala," $2.7 million.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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This story has been corrected to show "Alita: Battle Angel" was misspelled.

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