When it comes to evaluating the financial performance of top movies, it isn’t about what a film grosses at the box office. The true tale is told when production budgets, P&A, talent participations and other costs collide with box office grosses, and ancillary revenues from VOD to DVD and TV. To get close to that mysterious end of the equation, Deadline is repeating our Most Valuable Blockbuster tournament, using data culled by seasoned and trusted sources. We’re counting down from No. 20 and will present the data en masse Monday.

Rank 3THE LEGO MOVIE

THE FILM: A satisfying animated film based on LEGO blocks? This was the other most pleasant and playful franchise launch surprise besides Guardians Of The Galaxy, as Warner Bros minted another franchise to go along with the DC Comics superhero line that will drive its slates for the next five years. It also gave writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller two films in the Top 10 (22 Jump Street is the other), and will keep them busy in coming years with a Batman LEGO spinoff and sequels. How well did it do financially? Let’s take a look:

THE BOX SCORE: Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:

THE BOTTOM LINE: The film accomplished what so many other toy to movie transfers have tried to achieve. Released February 7, the film posted a whopping $69 million opening weekend, and it kept going. It grossed $257 million domestic and $211 million foreign, with no help from China (storyline too subversive?). That $468 million total pales in comparison to many of the films in the Top 20, but the key here is cost and a lack of participation deals that would have depleted the bottom line. The film’s budget was only $60 million, and you’d have to look at Despicable Me to find a blockbuster animated film that came in at that price point. According to our experts, the talent payouts were healthy for a cast that included Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Jonah Hill, Will Ferrell and Morgan Freeman. Even when factoring in those bonus payments that added $20 million after cash break, The LEGO Movie left $229 million in net profit to Warner Bros, for a stellar Cash on Cash return of 1.80. And sequels and spinoffs to look forward to. Those films will have to factor in bigger paydays for Lord and Miller and returning voice talent, but that is the price of doing blockbuster business.

No. 4 – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
No. 2 – American Sniper