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Quarterly review: Family-friendly and faith-based movies boost box office in first three months of 2014

By Jeff Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, April 17 2014 3:35 p.m. MDT

Lego minifigures Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) and Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) in the 3D computer animated adventure "The Lego Movie," from Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures and Lego System A/S. A Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Nobody looks forward to the first quarter of theatrical releases. January and February, in particular, are probably the worst months of the year to go to the movies. Statistics even back it up (check out this helpful infographic on Slate.com).

But 2014 has so far proven to be a nice surprise in a few key ways, offering an unusually high number of the two types of films most people might have figured Hollywood had given up on: family-friendly and faith-based ones.

And there was also “Noah” — in other words, a very odd beginning to the year in movies, with enough highlights and missteps to keep things interesting.

With box office information from Box Office Mojo, here's a look back at the first three months of 2014 in film.

Kid-friendly movies

Without a doubt, this quarter’s biggest hit was “The Lego Movie.” Warner Bros.’ toy-to-film adaptation rode a wave of (mostly unexpected) critical praise and positive word of mouth from audiences, who gave it an “A” CinemaScore rating.

What’s more, it not only managed to spawn a new catchphrase but also pulled in an impressive $250.7 million in U.S. ticket sales, singlehandedly lighting up an otherwise ho-hum February box office. Worldwide, its box office totals a little more than $410 million. And all that on a reported production budget of only $60 million — $9 million less than what the film made in just its first weekend.

Needless to say, Warner Bros. is already hard at work on a sequel.

Almost as surprising as the box office numbers for “The Lego Movie” is the fact that it was just one of a few high-profile movies targeting families this quarter — a rare occurrence these days.

Just a few weeks after “The Lego Movie” opened, March saw the release of DreamWorks Animation’s CG redo of Mr. Peabody and Sherman, two characters parents (or grandparents) might remember from “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.” Even though the big-budget animated time-travel flick hasn’t been quite as much of a hit in terms of box office here in the states ($102.4 million on a $145 million budget), audiences who turned out to see it scored it highly. OK.com users, for instance, gave it an 87 percent Worth Your Time rating (compared with “The Lego Movie’s” 94 percent). Also, like “The Lego Movie,” it earned an “A” CinemaScore.

Finally, at the tail end of March, Disney’s “Muppets Most Wanted” brought Jim Henson’s felt creations to the big screen for the eighth time since 1979’s “The Muppet Movie.” Despite a soft opening ($17 million in the U.S.) and complaints that there wasn’t enough Kermit, “Muppets Most Wanted” suffered only a 33.7 percent drop in its second weekend ($11.3 million), meaning it could still wind up earning a reasonable profit for the House of Mouse.

Although, really, there’s no reason to feel too bad for Disney right now. Despite the fact that it came out last November, Walt Disney Animation Studio’s “Frozen” has been making headlines all through the first months of 2014 due to its unending series of box-office triumphs.

The multiple Academy Award-winning film is now the highest-grossing animated feature of all time, surpassing “Toy Story 3” to the tune of more than $1.097 billion worldwide (and Idina Menzel belting out “Let It Go,” of course). That also means it’s now one of the 10 highest-grossing films, period. Can there be such a thing as a re-renaissance?

All in all, this combined lineup of films (including “Frozen,” which got another boost in January from a singalong release), together with a few smaller movies such as “The Nut Job,” made for one of the best first quarters for family audiences in years.

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