"The Lego Movie" is expected to stack up plenty of cash in its box-office debut as it easily beats fellow new contenders "The Monuments Men" and "Vampire Academy."
The animated comedy based on the veteran toy brand could gross around $50 million in ticket sales through Sunday in the U.S. and Canada, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys, though heavy snow on the East Coast could make for a smaller number.
That total would give the Warner Bros. film a comfortable weekend win, unseating Universal Pictures' Kevin Hart cop comedy "Ride Along," which has topped the charts for the last three weeks.
Written and directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the team behind 2009's "Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs," "The Lego Movie" has amassed overwhelmingly positive reviews for its irreverent humor and plot. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a "fresh" rating of 98% as of this writing.
Chris Pratt of the NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation" provides the voice for an average Lego worker who is mistakenly pegged as the one man who can save the world from a tyrant, voiced by Will Ferrell. The "Lego Movie" talent roster also boasts Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Channing Tatum, Liam Neeson and the raspy-voiced Will Arnett appearing as an uncharacteristically goofy Lego Batman.
The estimated production budget is about $60 million, which is relatively modest for a major animated effort.
George Clooney's "The Monuments Men," about a World War II crew on a mission to retrieve art masterpieces stolen by the Nazis, is expected to take in about $20 million through Sunday. The Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox co-production, which had its release date pushed back from late last year, cost about $70 million to make.
Clooney directed "The Monuments Men" and co-wrote the screenplay with Grant Heslov. The big-name cast includes Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and John Goodman, but the star power has not translated into critical acclaim, as reviews have been mixed.
Elsewhere, the Weinstein Co.'s latest offering will try to squeeze some more blood from teen fantasy fans. "Vampire Academy," based on the novel by Richelle Mead, should generate around $10 million in revenue. Directed by Mark Waters, the film stars Zoey Deutch and Lucy Fry as a pair of supernatural 17-year-olds who are captured and taken to an academy where their lives may be at risk.
Twitter: @rfaughnderCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times