NEW YORK - "The Lego Movie" clicked with moviegoers, assembling an exceptional $69.1 million debut at the weekend box office, according to studio estimates.
The better-than-expected result made the Warner Bros. collaboration with the Danish toy company easily the biggest hit of the year so far. A sequel is already in development for the 3-D animated film, digitally drawn to mimic a world composed entirely of Lego bricks.
The film has drawn raves from critics. Co-directors and co-writers Phil Lord and Chris Miller ("21 Jump Street," ''Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs") gave the film a playful tone to capture the whimsy of a child playing in a box of Legos. Characters are largely voiced by comic actors like Chris Pratt and Will Ferrell.
The film marks the biggest animation hit for Warner Bros., a studio that despite popular live-action franchises has struggled to develop animated hits on par with other studios.
"I can't imagine this not turning into a long-term franchise," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak. "This is such a runaway success that Warner Bros is now a major player in the animated genre."
Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., said the film, made with a production budget of $60 million, resounded because of the popularity of the Lego brand. This is the first feature film for the toy company. Fellow toy-maker Hasbro has seen mixed results since the launch of the "Transformers" franchise, which was followed by "G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra" and the notorious flop "Battleship."
George Clooney's World War II caper "The Monuments Men" opened in second place with $22.7 million. Reviews have been weak for the based-on-a-true-story tale about the mission to retrieve artwork stolen by the Nazis.
The Sony Pictures film was postponed from a Dec. 25 release because, Clooney then said, more time was needed to finish the visual effects. Clooney served as director, co-writer, producer and star on the film.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak.
1. "The Lego Movie," $69.1 million.
2. "The Monuments Men," $22.7 million.
3. "Ride Along," $9.4 million.
4. "Frozen," $6.9 million.
5. "That Awkward Moment," $5.5 million.
6. "Lone Survivor," $5.3 million.
7. "Vampire Academy," $4.1 million.
8. "The Nut Job," $3.8 million.
9. "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit," $3.6 million.
10. "Labor Day," $3.2 million.