Following Back-to-Back Disappointments, Are More Lego Movies in the Works?

Everything is decidedly not awesome in the Lego movie world.

More than ever, Hollywood relies on brand recognition to sell audiences on its latest projects. It’s why every hit show, movie, book, stage production, toy line, video game, board game, and meme — we’re joking about that last one, but give it time — eventually makes its way to the big screen.

Yet, even in a world where The Emoji Movie exists, some ideas just feel destined to fail. Such was the case with 2014’s The Lego Movie. Warner Bros. took a risk, and the film spawned a franchise. But for the first time since the original movie’s release, the future of Lego movies is very much unclear.

So can audiences expect to see a new installment in the series soon?

'The Lego Movie 2' characters General Mayhem, Emmet and Lucy
‘The Lego Movie 2’ characters General Mayhem, Emmet and Lucy | Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images For Warner Bros

‘The Lego Movie’ pulled off the impossible

Making a successful film adapted from a narrative-based experience like a video game is rough enough. But building a story and characters off of a brick-style construction toy seemed impossible. Thankfully, Warner Bros. turned to Phil Lord and Chris Miller to crack the code on The Lego Movie.

The duo had previously directed Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street. Cloudy established Lord and Miller’s ability to deftly handle high-energy animation. But the latter proved to be even more important. No one thought a satirical comedy based on the late 80s/early 90s TV drama could work. Yet, 21 Jump Street became a monster hit, spawning a sequel.

The same applied to The Lego Movie. Somehow, Lord and Miller found a way to imbue humor, heart, and imagination into the film. More than that, the story actually makes a profound observation about how people play with Legos. After The Lego Movie earned $468 million worldwide, Warner Bros. knew it had something special.

But the past couple of Lego movies fell short of expectations

One of the first film’s breakout characters was Will Arnett’s Batman. So The Lego Batman Movie came next, bringing in $311 million in 2017. Although the box office return dipped, the spin-off earned comparably strong reviews. And the big-screen future of Lego remained bright.

Yet, the prospects dropped considerably when The Lego Ninjago Movie hit later the same year. Despite its basis on the popular Lego Ninjago toy line, the film earned roughly a third what Lego Batman did. Perhaps this misfire was simply a fluke though. Just an instance of the brand cannibalizing itself. Surely, The Lego Movie sequel would see the franchise rebound strong.

Not really. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part marked a financial and critical improvement over Ninjago. But its $192 million worldwide gross in 2019 certainly fell short of expectations. After its underperformance, Warner Bros. even let the movie rights to the Lego brand slip away, casting doubt on a potential Lego Batman sequel and all other Lego movie projects.

Will audiences see the Lego franchise back on the big screen?

Warner Bros. may have saturated the market with Lego content. Or perhaps mainstream audiences just weren’t interested in what was becoming a Lego cinematic universe. At the very least, fans who are dismayed by the apparent downturn of Lego movies do have a flicker of hope on the horizon.

According to a December 2019 article from The Hollywood Reporter, Universal could be closing in on the movie rights. The studio is already home to Illumination Entertainment, creators of Despicable Me and The Secret Life of Pets. And it might be looking to build out its animation division with the Lego franchise.

Over the years, the Lego company has built an empire of its own, complete with nine Legoland theme parks and a ton of toy licensing deals. According to THR, Lego earned $5.5 billion in revenue in 2018. So, if Universal can course-correct the films, there’s a ton of profitability to tap into. Although nothing is official, don’t be surprised if we see some Lego Minions soon.