UK Box Office

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Animation is the one film genre that regularly supplies big hits without the benefit of character familiarity, with successes from studios such as Fox/Blue Sky (Ice Age), Universal/Illumination (Despicable Me) and Pixar (everything bar the sequels). Even recent Disney successes such as Tangled and Frozen barely traded on audience affection for their fairytale origins. However, the explosive opening numbers for The Lego Movie suggest brand familiarity can be an asset in animation, just as it invariably is in live action.

Opening with £8.05m including £2.16m in previews, The Lego Movie has achieved the strongest start for a non-sequel animation since The Simpsons Movie in July 2007 – although excluding preview figures, it was beaten by the opening weekend of 2009’s Up, with £6.41m.

The success is a big boost to backers Warners, which has the weakest record in animation of the major studios. Pulling in writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller – whose previous features, both animated (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) and live action (21 Jump Street), were for Sony – proved to be a smart move. The Lego Movie 2 has already been announced, and Warners is doubtlessly casting around for other properties from which to create animated hits.

The February half-term holiday means that weekdays more or less play like weekend days. We can expect big numbers every day this week for The Lego Movie, and a strong hold this weekend as families catch up before kids return to school. Numbers should drop thereafter, but word of mouth could see a sustained play period for The Lego Movie. Disney’s Frozen, with £37.5m, has achieved nearly eight times its opening weekend – a multiple that is presumably beyond the wildest dreams of Warners for The Lego Movie.

Lego had a predictable impact on the other animations in the market, with Mr Peabody & Sherman dropping 45% and Frozen 47%. New arrival Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy landed at number six with a creditable £967,000.

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