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'Lego Movie 2' to test whether bricks still click with kids, audiences

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"The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part" is the fourth feature-length movie for the Warner Bros franchise.

Los Angeles

DO movie audiences have an appetite for all things Lego: Lego superheroes, Lego aliens, Lego dinosaurs?

"The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part" puts that question to the test. It's the fourth feature-length movie for the Warner Bros franchise - including the original "Lego Movie" in 2014 and others devoted to Batman and the Ninjago world of martial-arts characters - and its success will determine whether more films are coming soon.

Dan Lin, a producer of all four films, said in an interview he and the studio haven't yet committed to a fifth movie. "The Second Part" is an opportunity to see if moviegoers still want to see characters depicted as Lego figurines. If it's a hit, more projects may come, including TV shows.

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"The Second Part" takes some risks, he said. There's a lot more music and new characters, including Tiffany Haddish as a shape-shifting queen and Stephanie Beatriz of "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" as the space-suited General Mayhem.

"It's a test," Mr Lin said from his Lego-adorned Los Angeles office. "It's a way for us to experiment. There are lots of new voices." Estimates for weekend ticket sales have been lowered to US$30 million by Box Office Pro from an earlier projection of as much as US$55 million. Variety has estimated US$31 million in sales from 4,303 North American locations. The movie racked up US$8.5 million in sales on Friday, Variety said.

The original "Lego Movie" in 2014 proved to be a surprise hit with kids and adults who turned out for the film's cheeky humour and catchy theme song, "Everything is Awesome". Made for about US$60 million, it grossed US$469 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.

The next picture in the series, 2017's "The Lego Batman Movie", brought in US$312 million worldwide, while "The Lego Ninjago Movie", released the same year, delivered a disappointing US$123 million.

The "Ninjago" film was based on a specific toy line, and that was a mistake that Mr Lin said he won't repeat.

"The Second Part" has the benefit of mostly positive reviews - it's recommended by 85 per cent of critics surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes. The film features the voices of Chris Pratt as the hero Emmet Brickowski, and Elizabeth Banks as Lucy, his Ninja-like partner.

The Lego business, which includes video games, TV shows and the ubiquitous toys, is considered a key pillar of Warner Bros' movie-franchise strategy, which also includes DC Comics and the "Harry Potter" series. The studio was one of the many media businesses acquired last year when AT&T Inc bought Time Warner.

Among other new releases this past weekend, the comedy "What Men Want" is expected to generate US$24 million for Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures. The film stars Taraji P Henson of "Empire" and "Hidden Figures" as a woman who can hear men's thoughts.

Meanwhile, "Cold Pursuit" - a revenge film starring Liam Neeson - is projected to make US$11.5 million for Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. BLOOMBERG