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The box office needs 'The Lego Movie 2' to reignite ticket sales after a dismal January

Key Points
  • The U.S. box office hauled in about $815 million last month, its lowest January take since 2013.
  • "The Lego Movie: The Second Part" is the first of many potential blockbusters coming down the pike.
  • "The Lego Movie 2" is expected to earn around $55 million during its first weekend.
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Source: Lego

After five weeks of disappointing U.S. ticket sales, the film industry is looking to "The Lego Movie: The Second Part" to reinvigorate the box office.

A bitter cold spell, a government shutdown and a weak slate of January movies lead to 16 percent decline in sales from last year, according to Comscore. The box office hauled in about $815 million during the month, its lowest January take since 2013.

And February isn't looking any better. In the first weekend of the month, the box office collected only $73.8 million, the lowest Super Bowl weekend in almost 20 years.

Of course, there is plenty for moviegoers and theater owners to look forward to in 2019. "The Lego Movie: The Second Part," which opens Friday, is the first of many potential blockbusters coming down the pike.

"This is the movie that hopefully gets the momentum going at the box office," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst at Comscore.

From 2007 to 2017, the box office averaged around $730 million in ticket sales in February. However, 2018 far surpassed that level, thanks to Disney's "Black Panther." The superhero film grossed $202 million in its opening weekend and hauled in $428.8 million for the month. February's box office last year totaled more than $1 billion.

"The Lego Movie 2" likely won't have quite that same effect, but it has the potential to be a big contributor to this year's monthly total.

"When you come off all of these Oscar films and superhero films, filling the void with a straight-up family film can be very good for the market place," Dergarabedian said. "[The box office] is treading water until 'Captain Marvel.' We need 'The Lego Movie 2.'"

The first "Lego Movie," released Feb. 7, 2014, made $69 million during its opening weekend and $192 million for the month. It was the most of any film that month. Similarly, "The Lego Batman Movie" was the top sales driver in February 2017, with $135.4 million in ticket sales.

Warner Bros.' "The Lego Movie: The Second Part" is the direct sequel to "The Lego Movie" although it was released after "Lego Batman" and "The Lego Ninjago Movie." It takes place in the same world as the first, a combination of animated Lego blocks and live action.

This film introduces Duplo blocks, larger building blocks designed for younger children, into the mix as Finn, the human boy from the first movie, battles against his little sister, Bianca, who keeps stealing pieces from his Lego sets. Their fighting is played out through new and familiar Lego characters voiced by Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish and Alison Brie.

"The Lego Movie 2" is expected to earn around $55 million during its first weekend, on par with the performance of "Lego Batman." Currently, it has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 91 percent, indicating that the majority of reviews have been positive for the film.

In comparison, "The Lego Movie" was "certified fresh" at 95 percent and "Lego Batman" received at 90 percent fresh rating. "Lego Ninjago" was the only film in the franchise that failed to resonate with critics and audiences. It received a 56 percent rating and brought in only $59 million in U.S. ticket sales.

"We are in a dead zone right now," said Erik Davis, managing editor at Fandango, which sells movie tickets. "There is an appetite for family movies."

He noted there was a lot of goodwill won by the first installment, and moviegoers young and old have become endeared with the franchise.

"The first 'Lego Movie' was so different and so unique that word of mouth just blew up," he said. "We hadn't seen a movie like it before."

Disclosure: NBC Universal, the parent company of CNBC, owns a stake in Fandango.