In a theoretical children’s toy battle between Transformers and Legos, I think it’s pretty clear who would win. The Legos might hold their own for a while building fortresses and bulwarks and the like, and they might even manage to launch a plastic cannonball or two, but the poor little things would be helpless against the heavy duty firepower of massive, heavily armed robot-cars.
Sure, it might be fun to imagine this glorious plastic-on-plastic combat (although I would be on the side of the Legos), but something quite similar actually played out with Latino audiences at the 2014 U.S. box office. Turns out we Latinos didn’t like The LEGO Movie all that much. In fact, a recent report by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) determined that the wholesome adventure comedy flick from that staple of early-childhood structural design was actually the whitest blockbuster of 2014, while director Michael Bay’s explosion happy Transformers: The Age of Extinction was the most diverse.
We can all meditate on what these findings might actually mean, and the possible explanations are manifold: Perhaps minorities just like fireballs more? Maybe its because Legos are Danish, hence very white? Or maybe it was a series of unconscious triggers in the film’s respective marketing campaigns. Either way, what’s more interesting than the outcome of The Great Toy War of 2014 are the actual numbers behind these findings: Transformers drew an entirely disproportional 26% Latino audience alongside its 38% white, 22% African American and 14% turnout (keep in mind, we represent 17% of the total U.S. population.) For The Lego Movie, on the other hand, Latinos clocked in at a much more representative 16% of total box office receipts. But, oddly Transformers’ numbers were much closer to the total percentage of Hispanic moviegoers in 2014: a whopping 23%.
So, while these percentages may be setting off plastic alarm bells at Lego Inc.’s Scandinavian headquarters, it also gives quantitative support to the fact that we Latinos are straight up locos for cinema. And maybe, just maybe, a theoretical Lego Movie 2 could include a voice by someone named, say, Adrian Martínez, John Leguizamo or Gabriel Iglesias, to ride along with all those “Ferrells,” “Neesons,” “Hills,” and “Tatums.”
Either way, the message is clear: wake up Hollywood, we’re the ones paying your bills.
Ed. Note: We know these numbers don’t translate to Latinos actually hating Legos. Let’s be real, we’ve all spent a part of our childhood putting together endless combinations of multi-colored plastic blocks. But, watching them up on screen, didn’t pull as many Latinos to the theater as most movies do.