The Warner Bros. adaptation of the popular toy took in $17.1 million on its first day of release, putting it on pace to reach as much as $60 million for the weekend and exceed even the high expectations in the low-$50-million-range some experts had predicted.
The movie will probably get a boost Saturday as parents take children to matinees.
With its solid total, the film will unseat the Kevin Hart comedy "Ride Along," which had ruled the box office the previous three weeks.
The likely $60-million weekend for "Lego" is especially solid given that the film cost less than $70 million to produce, a relative bargain by the standards of animation, where budgets over $150 million are common.
Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, "Lego" is set in a world where an evil president (voiced by Will Ferrell) keeps his people numb and submissive with hollow entertainment. Emmet (Chris Pratt), a cheerful rule-follower whiling away his days in an anonymous construction job, is happy just to go along until he meets free spirit Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), who mistakes him for a chosen "Master Builder" and corrals him into adventures through various Lego worlds.
In addition to a bold look and plenty of kid-friendly elements, the film also contains a wide-ranging and often subversive number of jokes for adults, which Warner Bros. hopes will expand the film's base and keeps it performing strongly for weeks to come.
Indeed, the coming period looks wide open for the film, which won't face a similar new competitor until DreamWorks Animation's "Peabody and Sherman" in early March. Easily within reach is the $150-million mark, and possibly even $200 million -- a threshold reached only by elite animated films such as "Frozen" and "Despicable Me 2."