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    The Lego Movie: Brickbuster or Just a Bust


    A disclaimer before we start: I have thoroughly enjoyed the previews for The Lego Movie. I giggled at times and was generally pretty excited at the prospect of seeing it in theaters. I've also been checking out the sets from the movie and reading/watching reviews of the builds. Overall, I think they are kinda eccentric and zany, like my uncle Jim after a lot of 'eggnog' at Christmas, dancing to Santa Baby with my wife's scarf. Fun, fun, fun! Sadly, fun alone does not profits make; does fun and popcorn sold translate into worthwhile Lego investments?

    Here are my cons:

    1) Lack of set cohesion

    I'm having trouble envisioning how many of these sets will seamlessly integrate into existing LEGO setups.  For most children, this probably isn't an issue, but for older builders with, say, a cityscape, I don't see a lot of easy integration.  I do understand that these sets are directly related to the movie itself, but I'm unsure how they'll work with any of the other popular themes.

    At this point you should point out that the current number one CAGR% theme, Dino, doesn't really merge well with others.  To that I'd have to say that dinosaurs have been popular with kids, since, well, dinosaurs existed *almost*.  These movie sets are a break from anything I've seen TLG make, and since they don't play well with other themes I think they need to stand on their own.  These sets look like Cuusoo sets gone wild - very fun, very original, but I don't think the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.  Without a past history of success for a whole line made in this fashion, I'm leery of tying up my investment capital.  Also, a good chunk of the sets have those micromanagers that look like glorified black boxes - not sure how much long-term appeal they have, or if people are going to want to army build with them...

    2) Movie release date/Will people remember TLM by the holidays 2014?

    I think the release date is terrible - why wouldn't a move that is essentially a vehicle to sell and promote toys (that sell best during the holidays) be released during the holidays?  I'm concerned that by the holidays of 2014 the sets being released now will have almost no prime retail space allocated to them, (perhaps a couple of the rumored summer sets, but likely not a lot of the sets currently on shelves) and it will be up to children to specifically ask for these older sets.  Conversely, had the movie been released in, say, early November, I could see the shelves being emptied during the holidays and a little more momentum for the theme.

    3) Lack of minifig desirability One of the biggest drivers of quite a few popular themes are the minifigs.  Look at the selling prices some superheroes or LOTR or SW minifigs are going for and you can see that the desirability of certain minifigs can make or break a sets investment potential.  My concern is that the collectible minifig line as well as the minifigs in the sets themselves are not going to be commanding high secondary prices, thereby limiting one significant factor in secondary market growth.  They aren't bad by any means, and some of them are downright awesome (I like the ice cream vendor guy) but I don't see them being as popular or collectible as licensed-theme characters.

    4) Kid-focused movies have a history of investment woes.  Check out a sampling of some past Disney made movies.  Yes, you could argue that Lone Ranger wasn't 'for kids' - if you believe critics its target demographic was essentially no one - but it was a supposed blockbuster in line with POTC and POP - maybe not directly for little kids, but I'd wager they were looking for a lot of younger folks buying tickets.

    Movie/Lego CollaborationBox Office Success (US/Worldwide)Overall CAGR%Theme highlights/outliersTheme lowlights/outliers
    Prince of Persia (2010)Approx 90 million USA & CAN, 244 million worldwide. Best video game adaptation ever in terms of box office (sorry Lara Croft) but these movie watchers aren't buying enough Lego!- 9.66%The Battle of Alamut - to have the biggest set (which tends to be the best profit % earner post-EOL) still be sitting 22.57% below retail is a real kick in the face to folks who say "buy any Lego set at 20% off or more" which might not be the best course of action.Um, all of them. While a couple are growing in value we aren't looking at sets that are significantly better than retail. Ugh!
    Toy Story 3 (2010)415 million US & CAN, 648 worldwide...my sweet lord, over a billion dollars. For a movie and franchise this popular, how did the Lego sets not set the world on Toy Story Fire?4.59%Transportation, fools! Like the boats below, and trains below that, even a low CAGR theme can get some growth from a form of transportation. Western Train Chase is holding this set in positive CAGR growth, along with the army men. Without them, this would be headed to negative-town.Nothing sticks out as being more worthless than others. The Construct-A-Zurg got some press from Ed awhile back, first for bad, then for having a nice bump in growth (but not well-above-retail growth). The sad truth is most of these are languishing at or near retail and are tar pits to sink your hard-earned capital into.
    Pirates of the Caribbean (2011)241 million North America, 804 million worldwide - another billion-plus movie-goers.18.80%There are two things driving this theme, both awesome boats. Without Queen Anne's Revenge and the Black Pearl this theme would not be sporting a handsome CAGR, but would be wearing a CAGR of shame, like an investing dunce cap.Okay, it actually isn't as bad as I was intimating in the column to the left - but it isn't all that promising. Long, long after EOL every set I checked showed at least some positive growth during the holiday season, but it isn't like this theme went EOL and money started falling in investors' laps. Even with time it seems unlikely the lesser (non-boat!) sets are going to net nice gains. A new movie on the horizon will help, but it might not be the best place to tie up capital.
    Cars 2 (2011)191 million in North American, 368 million worldwide, which puts this movie/franchise at over half a billion viewers. If only each one wanted a Construct-A-Zurg8.20%8486 Mack's Team Truck. I literally can't figure out why this set is rocking out with such a high ROI%. It is carrying this theme as a red big rig (yes...transportation, maybe big transportation sets are the key?) even though it certainly isn't the only big rig ever released by TLG. If anyone knows why this is a diamond in the rough, let me know.A few sets are showing some growth, but it is basically getting at/near or slightly above retail, which means not too much here to make your fortune on.
    The Lone Ranger (2013)89 million North America, 171 worldwide...Eeesh, worst Lego-Disney collaboration on this list. Still liking these sets?N/A - also would be unfair as many of these sets are/were on clearance recently.Constitution Train seems to be the investors choice with the stagecoach a close second. Time will tell.Anything but the train? Hard to say at this point. If the theme is indeed EOL it would be a very VERY short run which might positively impact growth.

     

     Some interesting observations here - most prominently, that Disney makes pretty successful (nay, very successful) flicks with some astonishing box office numbers.  With numbers like these, it seems obvious that Lego sets tied to these franchises would have huge investment potential.  From what I can gather, however, is that no matter how many people go to see a movie, it doesn't always translate into investment potential.  Outside of a couple of real investment winners, these themes are not places any investor would like to tie up funds.  In looking at these numbers, is anyone else concerned that the Lone Ranger was BY FAR the worst box office-rated movie in the Disney lineup, which features generally poor performing sets?  I know there has been some love for a few of the sets in these forums, but despite all the love I'm still leery.  A super short run might help, but I'm still not convinced there is solid investment potential in LR or any other Disney-movie-based set that isn't a form of transportation.

    5) Set overload

    I get that TLG is ready to put a huge push to make this movie a success.  I think that perhaps free of paying huge, licensing fees for other lines, TLG was literally like a kid in a candy store, but the store was a factory with Lego-making molds.  Does a release of this many sets all at once dilute interest or drive children to try and collect them all?

    Pros:

    The 2 in 1 sets are very cool.  I think that for a lot of builders these are must-owns.  Even with the ice-cream-loving Heartlake gals being considered, I think it is unlikely we'll ever get another Lego Ice Cream Truck (with awesome minifigs).  I also think this will be the only plumbing truck we get, and every Lego cityscape needs jobs for their minifigs that don't involve fire or police work (or being chased by said police).

    Overall, I have quite a few concerns about this theme, and none of them likely concern TLG.  I'm comfortable predicting the movie will be quite successful and even with possibly smaller sales of Lego sets (compared to licensed or very popular themes) the fact that there are no licensing fees means TLG probably needs to sell a heck of a lot less than, say, LOTR sets, to make a profit.  I am interested in the larger rumored summer wave of sets that might (edit* will) see a very large classic space ship and Metalbeard's Sea Cow, which are larger and might appeal more to AFOLs, but for this first wave I'm not very optimistic that there are a lot of winners in this set.  Tread carefully!

    Also, feel free to tell me why I'm wrong about this line and how it is going to set the secondary market on fire!  Since we're still in the infancy of this theme, there is plenty of room for dissenting opinion and I'm certainly no Lego Nostradamus.  Still, not every theme can be an investment winner - for each set above the CAGR% average there is one below, and the trick is recognizing which side a theme is destined for.  I'm giving it the investment equivalent of Romans giving gladiators two thumbs down - investment death.

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    8486 Mack's Team Truck is popular for a few reasons. Like Flo's V8 (which also has a decent ROI)., the set is based on the first movie which is admired much more than Cars 2. I believe the latter is a big reason. The truck kinda resembles a reddish Optimus Prime in tractor trailer mode. The trailer has a unique 7 stud wide design (99% of all other Lego versions are 6 stud). Has nice features in the trailer. Mack has also been a popular character in the series.

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    I think having most sets be a 2 in 1 was a great idea by Lego. Unlike some movie themed sets, the build steps don't conclude to 'goofy' movie mode. This will help after the sets are retired.

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    Totally agree. I can't wait to see the movie but I have no intention of buying any of these sets either for personal enjoyment or resale. Only if my son asks for one.

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    Good article, however, I just have one point that I would like to make. Before I do, I will just put out there that I am a psychologist, and I do not say that to boast, rather, just objectively, that is my profession. So I know what I am talking about. You can insert any shrink joke into this post and it will probably be true with me :) Long time ago, toy companies got with some psychologists and hired them as a means to promote toy sales specifically after the holidays, because they always go through such a slump. What research showed was that there is a HUGE market for toys after the holidays for the release of new toys for this reason.... Scenario: Kids tell parents all the things they want for Christmas. Parents inevitably fail at getting all their kids gifts. Toys sell out. No more toys. Kids angry, say things like "worse Christmas ever" and parents are horribly guilty. Psychologically, they are weak and fragile. They are VULNERABLE, a word loved by marketers of products everywhere. Along comes a new product, kids want it, and want it bad, and tell their parents that if they get it all past failures will be forgotten. Parents, even though their check books are dry, will do anything to erase their guilt of failing over Christmas, so they buy anything their kids want FOR ANY PRICE. Simple social psychology. In this light, I think the LEGO group released the film at the perfect time :) Just a thought...Cheers

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    The point about after the holidays is super interesting! I was going to hypothesize that you have less competition to essentially launch a new "brand" at this time, vs going up against all of the heavy hitters (including Xbox/PS) before the holidays. A few other random thoughts on a great blog post: - Lone Ranger strikes me as something that will build momentum over the years on cable. Most people who have seen it after reading all of the bad reviews seem to indicate that it is not as bad as people say, and if this ends up on rotation on the Disney channel or something it could have some legs. - One other point for LR - at least they map to a simple theme of cowboys and indians. Toy Story, Prince of Persia, Cars....they can pretty much only be sets for those movies. POTC is the outlier here, but I think they just missed the boat (PIRATE PUN) of releasing with the earlier movies. I think that contributes to the popularity of the ships, they are less tied to the last movies than some of the scene sets are. - Someone else nailed it, DVD release, should spur some momentum in sales potentially around the holidays. That being said, none of that to me adds up to sets I would stockpile expecting to flip next Christmas, etc (outside of the Metalbeard boat maybe). BUT - there is one more factor.... Sequel. If this is a success, a sequel seems like a lock, no? If they build a franchise around some of these characters, then perhaps they become good investments, we'll see.

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    Thanks for this great post. I would like to make one quick point, that I think we can't forget. We keep talking about the TLG not having to pay any licensing fees for these sets as a positive (set will probably have a lower $ per piece price) and a negative ( the TLG may just drag out this line forever). but what about the fact that they control the licensing for this movie. In other words' they will control which other toy manufacturers get to produce toys based on this movie? If this movie will do well in the box office and kids want movie related stuff' they're only option will be buying a Lego set. I think part of the past failures could have been that some of these movie did so well' that too many toy manufacturers just brought out too many toys. Just look at the Cars movies. Their merchandise is everywhere. Onto so much with the Lone Ranger. It didn't do so well, so fewers toy makers went after the licensing of this movie. So the factors contributing to the success of a movie based Lego theme include the following: Who controls the licensing? Is the deal excluding other toy makers? And what subtheme does is support (transportation etc). Notice that I didn't include the box office success of the movie since I just don't that really drives the succes of your investment.

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    Good article and thought through, Veegs. However, here are my points to yours. "Lack of set cohesion" If you just build the sets for exactly what they are then perhaps not but actually, these can fit in just about anything really and I am not simply talking about the 2-in-1's either. They are rather universal due to their 'weirdness' if that makes any sense. You ever seen the bizarre mix-ups on Flickr? Also people on Eurobricks are warming up to the Micro-Managers after getting a chance to build one themselves. Not to the point of a full-on army yet (I don't think) but still. "Movie release date/Will people remember TLM by the holidays 2014?" Why a terrible release? Perhaps for quick flippers but I would speculate Lego wants to make sure every regular little Timmy and Susan well as their friends, then their friends, and so on, have a chance to see the film in theaters for about the whole length of the year instead of a brief holiday showing only the most devout of fans may go see. (I so do not go to any theatre during the crazed holiday season.) Besides, if it did come out last Christmas or this upcoming one then it would have to compete with The Hobbit films which is another license Lego has rights to (for the moment) making it not a good move because then The Lego Movie (both film and product) would be in direct competition with The Hobbit. Therefore essentially, Lego would literally be competing with themselves. "Lack of minifig desirability" I know all we see is Emmet or Wyldstyle which is unfortunate because each set has so many unique characters. In Rescue Reinforcements, there is the girl wearing a Fabuland t-shirt and a guy with a Blacktron one under his vest. Creative Ambush has a couple of cool Western minifigures and a food vender dude. The El Macho wrestler in Lord Business' Evil Lair, the blond lady in Castle Cavalry with some great facial expressions, the fantastic fitness woman and vendors in Ice Cream Machine, the list goes on. Aside from the generic Emmet and sometimes Wyldstyle, each set is filled with limited and very collectable minifigures. Of course that does not always equal desirability but they are rare all the same. "Kid-focused movies have a history of investment woes." Honestly, that's the "Disney Disease". :P Anyway, this movie feels more like an actual family film way more than a simple kids title. My own mother is excited about this much as I am. Haha. I will say if The Lego Movie looked like every other Lego movie from before (Clutch Powers for example) then I think it would have turned out mediocre but instead Lego did the smart move by hiring some good writers and make the film actually look like physically Lego. (That last bit is because the jury is still out whether it is actually stop-motion or just really good 3D animation.) "Set overload" Alright, I will admit there is a whopping ton of sets to buy making it way harder to choose but I believe the diversity will help. I personally am glad to see such a wide variety of unique set designs which in of itself makes me want all of them for myself. The boxes along look super stellar to where I could just display them like this on my shelves. Plus this is the first theme outside of Creator that truly feels as though it promotes creativity and thinking outside the box. Anyway, I personally am not typically 'bullish' on anything but I am ridiculously so for The Lego Movie, film and theme.

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    I think that you've hit the nail on the head - I still think this movie is going to be a huge hit with the kids and that a lot of the smaller sets will sell well. I think it might be telling that the larger more expensive sets are not being included in this wave - it seems like a very kid-directed move. That being said, I think this is the worst time of year to release a theme for the purposes of Lego investing. I look at most of the small and mid-sized sets in the theme and I'm not convinced they have a ton of growth potential.

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    I agree - I think that the box office take is a poor indicator of Lego investment success - but I did want to point out that these movies made oodles of cash (LR exception). I was implying that popularity alone, or popularity especially with kids doesn't always seem to translate into high secondary market prices. As for licensing issues - nice points! I'm very worried that Disney is going to go Star Wars crazy and further dilute the brand in the next few years. (as you pointed out they did with Cars, for example) I'd love to be proven wrong, and to see careful stewardship of the franchise, but I'm not holding out hope for restraint.

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    I'm actually hoping that my gut feeling is wrong - I think these sets are pretty cool and I'd happily build them myself - but I'm not sure about tying up capital in them. Still, I'd like to see it go the other way and have them really take off. Why? Because BPers will be monitoring the sales and trends and will likely have enough time to see which sets are solid picks and get them before the holidays.

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    Love the sets, but not as an investment. Aside from Lord biz lair, the figs are lousy. Great post, I very much agree. The only caveat I see is there may be a short production run on these. I could see the ice cream truck doing ok though. I may grab a few of those on discount a year from now.

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    I think the psychologist is right on mark. Most parents didn't get that one gift during Christmas so they'll make up for it. So far the reactions from my 3 kids towards this theme is great! They seem to like these sets far more than the ninjago and chima sets..yes!!! I'm stock piling these sets now because we could see some shortages after the movie especially the battle packs. I think these will do awesome during Christmas , right around the time it hits DVD. Plus the parts are great, lots of unique stuff. Seems like lego saved some of the cooler parts and colors for they're own line, imagine that :)

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    I also put my money on the Sea Cow. It might be a little expensive, but ships always do good in the long run. I don't see any money making in the rest of the Movie sets. Maybe Bennies spaceship, but that's it.

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    Thanks for the well-developed article. I wanted to add one point, which was sort of glazed over in the comments section, and that is that the content of the previous movies differs greatly from that of The LEGO Movie. They're all about non-LEGO characters. When a kid watches (and loves) Toy Story, the first thing he may say is "wow, I want a Buzz Lightyear"--not "I want a LEGO version of Buzz Lightyear" but rather one that matches identically to the one on the screen, and goes and buys a figurine (I mean, after all, a LEGO Buzz Lightyear will break after he crashes down from a failed flight attempt). When the same kid watches (and loves) The LEGO Movie, he may say "wow, I want a MetalBeard" and you know what--he can only get one that's identical to the one on the screen by buying LEGO. Not a bad concept, and it was animated perfectly--flexible enough to make the characters interesting, but rigid enough to allow the sets to really be identical to the movie. However, my main point only answers the question of initial popularity. Investment-wise? Well, LEGO has the unique ability to produce sequel after sequel as they please, reinserting old characters if they so desire (good for investors sitting on "old" sets). If not, Sea Cow all the way. That ship is massive and beautiful. And I find the release date to be well-placed, but not due to the post-holiday guilt. Kids work quick, and any guilt that exists after Christmas has probably been cashed in already. It's an otherwise slow month, and all the kids will be talking about TLM, planting the seed of interest.

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    I'd like to see a follow up to this article. Now that we're living in a post-The Lego Movie world, what are your thoughts on Lego's investments?

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    You got to keep in mind that this isn't the first movie Lego has done but it IS the first Lego Movie and it will go down in his story as the first The Lego Movie... see where I'm going with this? I personally barely like any of these sets but they're Lego based on not only a movie but The Lego Movie, which did stupendous, not only with kids and adults but with fans of Lego and now NEW fans of Lego. I can imagine a kid years from now being an AFOL and looking back at the movie and wanting all the sets he can from the movie he dearly loved as a kid. On the other hand EVERYONE and their kids loved this movie and are going for the sets just for the name brand. This is proven by the half empty selves constantly displayed at your local Targets and Walmarts. My question is who will want to buy these sets for over twice the retail price in the brickmarket once these sets are discontinued? Another thing to keep in mind is with the second movie already in the making, will the sets from the first Lego Movie go up in price or be forgotten about in the market?

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    A little more than a year after this article, I can tell you that most of TLM sets are still available at LEGO Shop at Home, with the exception of the peripheral sets that only have seconds' appearance toward the end of the movie (Castle Calvary, Ice Cream Machine, Fylyng Flusher, Creative Reinforcements, Trash Chomper), which are retired.  As of May 2015, these retired sets are doing fairly well in the after-market (except for the Ice Cream Machine which is steady at original MSRP) The second Lego Movie will be forthcoming in Spring of 2018(unless they postpone it again) and I will be very carefully watching out for any clearance sales at all of the retail outlets for all TLM sets still being sold.

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