'Lego Batman Movie' tops 'Fifty Shades Darker' at the box office as 'John Wick 2' kills

Goofy superhero kids’ toys beat kinky whips and bondage at movie theaters this weekend as “The Lego Batman Movie” topped “Fifty Shades Darker” for the No. 1 spot at the domestic box office.

Warner Bros.’ new “Lego Movie” spinoff grossed $55.6 million in the U.S. and Canada from Friday through Sunday, according to studio estimates, proving the unexpected success of the 2014 original comedy was not a fluke.  

The opening result for “Lego Batman,” a send-up of the DC Comics character, was slightly lower than the $60 million to $65 million analysts predicted last week. Yet it was still a strong start for the movie that cost an estimated $80 million to make, considerably less expensive than the typical animated feature.

In international markets, "Lego Batman” made an estimated $37 million over the weekend.

Reviews for “The Lego Batman Movie,” featuring the voice of Will Arnett as the growling billionaire vigilante, have been overwhelmingly positive, which bodes well for the movie’s prospects in the coming weeks, not to mention future Lego cartoons from the studio.  

“We were so excited when the ‘Lego Movie’ launched a whole franchise in 2014, and to see this first standalone film take off like this is pretty cool for us,” said Jeff Goldstein, president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros. “We’re getting everybody. We’re of course getting young families, but we’re also getting tweens, teens and adults.” 

Universal Pictures’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” sequel, meanwhile, settled for second place with an estimated $46.8 million in ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada through Sunday, a solid result for the movie that cost less than $60 million to make. 

The debut was considerably lower than the stellar opening for the original, which was released during a four-day weekend when the E.L. James erotic novel series was at the height of its popularity. The opening for the first film topped $93 million over a long weekend that coincided with Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day. The follow-up also cost more to produce. 

Yet Nick Carpou, Universal Pictures’ domestic distribution president, said the picture should continue to play well during the Valentine’s Day week and the upcoming four-day weekend, especially among females who made up 70% of the audience for “Fifty Shades Darker.” The movie also proved popular abroad, bringing in $100 million from countries outside the U.S. and Canada. 

“We have a good chance of continuing to be very relevant next weekend,” Carpou said. “This is a win for the franchise.”  

By far the biggest surprise was “John Wick: Chapter 2,” which took in $30 million in its debut, close to double what the original made in 2014. The healthy result easily topped industry projections of $20 million.

The first “John Wick,” introducing Keanu Reeves as a highly effective ex-hitman who comes out of retirement in a revenge-fueled killing spree, was a modest performer at theaters but became a cult favorite on home video among young men and video gamers. 

The three new wide releases provided a much-desired boost to the movie industry during the weekend before Valentine’s Day, coming after a dismal Super Bowl weekend that delivered a pair of disappointments in “Rings” and “The Space Between Us.” 

Strong holdovers also gave theater owners reason to be happy. M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split,” the hit thriller from Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions, finally yielded the No. 1 perch after three weeks at the top, and fell to fourth place. The film, starring James McAvoy as a villain with multiple personalities, added $9.3 million to its take, bringing its total domestic gross to $112 million. 

In fifth place was “Hidden Figures,” the Oscar-nominated space race drama about black women in the early days of NASA. The film from 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment earned $8 million for a cumulative total of $131 million.  

Among Oscar contenders, the Weinstein Co.’s “Lion,” starring Dev Patel as an adopted Indian child on a mission to find his birth mother, continued to gain momentum at the box office. The drama scored $4 million Friday through Sunday, making its domestic total $30.4 million after 12 weeks in theaters. 

ryan.faughnder@latimes.com

@rfaughnder


UPDATES:

12:20 p.m. This article was updated to include international ticket sales.

10 a.m.: This article was updated with a comment from Universal Pictures executive Nick Carpou. 

This article was originally published at 9 a.m.

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