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What Happened to the LEGO Movie Series?


The LEGO Movie had no business being as good as it was. It was such a strange idea for a movie, and it was one that very few expected to be any good. However, the 2014 film ended up being one of the best and most heartfelt animated movies of that year. We’re still upset that it didn’t even receive a nomination for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars. The film was directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who had previously made a name for themselves with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street, and The LEGO Movie would shoot them to even higher heights. It boasted an immensely talented voice cast as well, which consisted of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Liam Neeson, Alison Brie, and so many more.

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The success of the first film spawned the development of a number of different LEGO Movie spin-offs and sequels. For a few years, the LEGO Movie series was inescapable. It seemed like there were new LEGO films being announced and released constantly. However, as we’ve transitioned into the 2020s, the franchise has suddenly dried up. The last film in the series to be released was The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part back in February 2019. The series was riding high, but then it suddenly stopped. So, what’s the hold-up? Here’s what we know:


Initial Success

lego batman 2017
Warner Bros. Pictures

There’s no denying the success of the first LEGO Movie. On a budget of $60 million, the film managed to pull in more than that on its opening weekend alone. The movie opened to just under $70 million in its first weekend, and it went on to gross $257 million domestically. When taking its international box office into account as well, The LEGO Movie managed to bring in a massive haul of $468 million dollars. And that doesn’t even account for the massive 12% boost in LEGO sales that followed the release of the film, which managed to push LEGO over Mattel and make them the largest toy company in the world for a time. On top of that, the film was instantly beloved by critics and audiences alike. It earned a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 8.2/10. Meanwhile, audiences right out of the theater gave the movie an A rating on CinemaScore. The LEGO Movie was a big win, no matter which way you looked at it.

That success continued through to the end of the year as well, as the film posted great DVD and Blu-ray sales throughout the rest of 2014 as well. Ultimately, the home video sales of The LEGO Movie ended up contributing another $111 million to its total haul domestically. The film was undeniably a huge hit, and it was another pretty feather in the caps of Lord and Miller. The LEGO Movie went on to win a BAFTA for best children’s film, in addition to numerous other nominations and wins for other awards including six Annie nominations, of which it won one for Lord and Miller’s screenwriting. Though the film missed out on a Best Animated Feature nomination at the Oscars, it did receive a nomination for the original song “Everything is Awesome.” The LEGO Movie hype was real, and Warner Bros. Animation and the creative team behind the film wanted to strike while the iron was hot. Development immediately began on a sequel and several spin-off films that would follow the first, and The LEGO Movie quickly built its own little cinematic universe brick by brick.

Related: Lego: All Theatrically Released Movies, Ranked

Failed to Build on It

the-lego-ninjago-movie
Warner Bros. Pictures

The first LEGO movie to follow the 2014 film was The LEGO Batman Movie, directed by Chris McKay, which was released in early 2017. In terms of the overall reaction to the film, The LEGO Batman Movie received a similarly joyous response from both critics and audiences. Some people even argue that the movie is one of the best Batman movies ever produced. The movie centered on the LEGO Batman character, voiced by Arnett, who was introduced in The LEGO Movie, and it wasn’t afraid to dive headfirst into the entire catalog of Batman and DC characters. LEGO Batman also managed to amass quite the star-studded cast, as Michael Cera, Zack Galifianakis, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Zoë Kravitz (coincidentally voicing Catwoman five years before she played the character in live-action), Jenny Slate, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Billy Dee Wiliams and Mariah Carey (yes, the Mariah Carey) all lent their voice talents to the movie.

However, despite the positive reception to the movie, there was a bit of a decline when it came to the film’s box office. Though the budget for LEGO Batman was $20 million higher than The LEGO Movie, sitting at about $80 million, the spin-off movie’s total gross dropped to about $312 million globally. The film certainly had and continues to have its fans. But it’s inarguable that The LEGO Batman Movie made a much smaller splash upon its arrival than the first LEGO Movie did. This downward trend worsened with the second LEGO spin-off released in 2017, The LEGO Ninjago Movie. That film would be the first real flop that the franchise would experience. It was the first in the LEGO franchise to be poorly received, which showed through in its box office performance as well. With a similar budget of about $70 million, Ninjago only managed to pull in $123 million worldwide. Taking marketing costs into consideration, it’s likely that The LEGO Ninjago Movie failed to break even.

On the whole, and despite the quality of The LEGO Batman Movie, the franchise’s double-film release in 2017 did more harm than good for the series’ longevity. It became clear, especially with Ninjago, that the LEGO Movie shtick was beginning to wear thin. However, the real test of audience interest came with The LEGO Movie 2 in 2019. Unfortunately for the series, The LEGO Movie 2 fell victim to one of the worst things a movie can be: just…fine. The long-anticipated LEGO Movie sequel was released and generally considered to be simply okay, which dramatically impacted how it performed overall. Interest in the series had already waned a bit with the 2017 films, but The LEGO Movie 2 opened to a mere $34 million domestically, less than half of what the first film had made in the same February release window five years earlier. It went on to only gross $192 million worldwide, on a $90 million budget, and since then the movie has been largely forgotten. The LEGO Movie 2 came and went with little more than a whimper, signaling that the future for the franchise maybe wasn’t as bright as it had once been thought to be.

Related: Canceled LEGO Batman Sequel from Rick & Morty Team Sounds Wild, So Why Didn’t It Happen?

What the Future Holds

the-lego-movie-2-chris-pratt
Warner Bros. Pictures

When The LEGO Movie 2 was released, WB Animation was already in development on two other spin-offs for the franchise. The first was The Billion Brick Race, which would have been a LEGO racing movie. The film had cycled through a few different directors since it was first announced in 2015, but the lackluster box office performances of Ninjago and The LEGO Movie 2 resulted in the film’s cancelation in late 2019. The other film actively being developed was a LEGO Superfriends movie, which would have served as a sequel to The LEGO Batman Movie. McKay was returning for the film, and everything seemed to be going along smoothly. However, following the disappointments of those last two LEGO films and the cancelation of The Billion Brick Race, the fate of The LEGO Superfriends Movie entered a state of unknown.

In early 2020, Universal Pictures entered a five-year agreement with the LEGO Company, which meant they would take the reins from WB and be the new producer and distributor of any future LEGO movies. Since then, there hasn’t been a lot of word about what the future holds for the LEGO Movie series. Since WB owns the rights to Batman and the catalog of DC characters, The LEGO Superfriends movie was canceled, as Universal couldn’t legally produce the movie even if they wanted to. As for the core series, producer Dan Lin confirmed this year that he and Universal are actively developing The LEGO Movie 3. In an interview with The Ankler podcast, Lin stated that “We know we have to switch it up and take a to a different art form that’s still true to LEGO. We should have some announcements soon. I think we’ve reinvented it in a cool way.”

So, it looks like The LEGO Movie 3 is still on track to happen sooner or later, but it’s unlikely that the franchise will ever get back to the place it was five years ago. While Universal could certainly develop other branded LEGO movies centered around their own popular franchises like Jurassic Park or the Universal Monsters, it seems like audience interest in LEGO movies has waned pretty heavily over time. Who knows? Maybe Lin’s right, and they’ve found a way to reinvent and revive the series with The LEGO Movie 3. At this point, though, we’re not holding our breath.



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