In my old life before my chronic illness struck I considered myself quite a bit of a film buff and would regularly go to the cinema, buy stacks of DVDs, write reviews of films I liked on my old blog and even attended official press screenings for yet to be released movies every now and then to write professional essays for some media outlets. These days the situation is a bit different for a multitude of reasons, but I still like to obsess about certain movies as much as I can. All the same, that’s why the idea of a LEGO cinema set appealed to me and I was pleased when the Heartlake City Movie Theater (41448) was announced late last year. Now that I finally have it, let’s see what it has to offer.
Price and Contents
I had my eyes on this set from the day it was announced, but never had a real excuse to buy it. I thought the idea was cool and I wanted some of the parts in this set, anyway, yet it never became an urgent matter because otherwise the shortcomings this set would have were all too obvious. Even on the official promotional photos this does not look like you are getting a lot of volume for your money and the idea of using a smartphone as a screen was once more extremely off-putting, because it negatively influenced some of the design decisions that went into this set.
It’s that old thing of LEGO expecting six-year-olds to spend all day with a mobile device and integrating it in their models. True, kids do have access to these things and on the train and elsewhere I see parents letting their kids watch animated series on phones to distract them and soothe them all the time, but it’s not like you would want your pre-schooler spend their entire time doing that unsupervised while playing in their room. I have no kids, but having grown up in a different age and not being one to always chase the latest tech and social media trends I’m pretty much opposed to LEGO bastardizing their products in such a manner.
The set officially has 451 pieces, which sounds a lot, but at the end of the day it really isn’t. There are many rather large pieces like the rounded shells or the round canopy bricks, but also a lot of small pieces like the 1 x 1 quarter tiles or the Trans Yellow 1 x 1 studs for the marquee lights. In fact there is not that many regular pieces like 1 x 2 and 1 x 4 bricks, so right from the get-go you feel like there is not a lot of bulk. Given that, the original price of 50 Euro seems way, way too much. To me this indeed feels like it should always have not cost more than 35 Euro. Anything above that is a stretch.
Because of the inadequate pricing I leaned back and bide my time until some decent discount would come along. That happened very recently on Amazon Germany. They apparently really wanted to clear up space in their warehouse and wanted to get rid of some stock, so they fired this out in some sort of reverse auction scheme, i.e. one where prices are dropping continuously until the lowest bidder buys a product or the supply runs out. You could literally watch how this set dropped from its already discounted 37 Euro every day. I chickened out after four days and bought it for 28 Euro, representing something like a 45 % discount, but indeed I could have waited two days more and got it for 25 Euro, pretty much an exact 50 % off. Funny enough this pattern was repeating just this weekend on Amazon France.
For this low price the set is still not great, but it became acceptable and for me personally of course this brought it within the range where buying the individual parts on Bricklink would have been just as expensive.
The number of figures is way too low for this type of set with only three being in the box. You know, while the promotional materials show the glitz and glamour of a red carpet premiere, in actuality this would be more like a poorly attended matinee. In addition to Andrea who can either be interpreted as a fan chasing for autographs or the organizer of the event, depending on how you feel about that, we only get Amelia in her Dark Turquoise evening gown as a genuine guest of honor.
The only guy in the room, Julian, is apparently one of them poor students who serve multiple functions at once in real cinemas, be that an usher, a cleaning maid, a snacks & drinks seller and whatever else needs to be taken care of. At least they gave him a decent uniform, old-fashioned as it may be. the practical value of the figures is limited, but you can at least some components for a bit of mix & match if you have other Friends or Disney Princess minidolls. It works of course just the same in reverse. The cyan dress would look nice for a ball at Elsa‘s palace or something like that. Other than that the only real highlight is the guy’s hair, which is a recolor of the Superman hair and so far is in fact only available via Friends sets (this one and the Heartlake City School (41682)) in the Medium Nougat color.
As you may have gathered already from my first few paragraphs I’m not particularly crazy about this set due to what I consider some serious design flaws. these become most apparent when viewing the assembled model from the top. The front section with the entry lobby and the signage looks actually okay and pretty massive, but the main screening room comes across as if it was merely plugged on as an afterthought.
The front facade is clearly based on classic 1950s/ 1960s American cinema designs as you probably still can find them in many small towns across the country even today, assuming they haven’t been replaced by a large multiplex. That’s a neat touch and the use of Light Aqua is a nice touch, not just because it’s one of my favorite LEGO colors. It’s subtle and classy enough that a restored old cinema could be painted in this shade without looking too crazy.
The front is divided into three distinct sections, with the box office/ ticket booth being on the right of the building, a central entry section with dual doors and a small “celebrity photo stage” on the left side. While visually it looks nice enough, I got miffed here for the first time. the small protrusions in the middle and the fenced-off pedestal are only attached by a handful of studs and fall off as soon as you move the model. This is for all intents and purposes just bad engineering. Such things are barely tolerable for collectible models for adults and shouldn’t even have been approved for a set aimed at children.
You would be correct in guessing that many of those large areas are supposed to be covered with stickers, but as you know I never use any of those. This also goes for the marquee area. Personally I don’t mind, but it’s not much of a stretch to conclude that at least some parts should be printed. Either that or they could and should have included a solution where some posters or marquee text could be dynamically substituted by stickers applied to flag/ tapestry elements, a technique used extensively for instance in the big Ninjago City (70620) set.
The back side or interior by comparison looks extremely simple and barren. The lack of actual walls on the side is one thing that contributes to this feeling, but not using the space on the top and housing in the film projector are too blame just as well. that and of course the absence of am actual screen box/ stage and only some flimsy Technic liftarms serving as the holders for a smartphone.
I’ve already criticized this, and it becomes even more upsetting the more you look at it. It’s not like they didn’t have options here – a slide frame into which to place some printed cardboard screens with famous film scenes recreated in LEGO style sure wouldn’t have been too much to ask and could by itself have added quite a bit of coolness. If the graphics were done right, people might even have hung them up as posters or used them as postcards and LEGO could have made a quick buck on selling extra packs…
Another thing that bothered me massively is the overall fragile construction due to the hinge mechanism. It’s not done very well with only two hinges on either side and, which is the real problem here those hinges barely being locked in by other bricks. As a result the model is prone to warping when opening the sides to the point where you can literally just break things apart by applying too much force and Archimedes‘ law of the levers taking effect. I found myself pressing stuff back in place way too much for my taste.
The details intended for play scenarios are sufficient, but not great. There’s simply not much to do and for instance the box office/ snack bar has far too few items. Even just adding a few ice cones would have gone a long way, not to speak of things like a popcorn machine, chocolate bars and so on.
The bathroom is also devoid of details. Don’t mind the toilet being placed so oddly, that’s entirely my own mistake. Anyway, they’re not using this space very efficiently, as most of the curved space remains open.
Once you study the details and put your mind to it you also realize that LEGO have been playing it cheap and not recolored elements specifically for this set. Having all arches in Light Aqua as well would have made things a bit more harmonious at least.
This is by no means a good set by any measure. The idea is actually great, but the execution suffers from that nonsensical mobile device integration at every turn. Unfortunately it’s also not as simple as saying “Buy a second set and create a better model.” because many things would need major restructuring and you still need to dig into your own parts supply. It’s really regrettable, as this could have been something really great, but LEGO completely squandered the opportunity.
I can hardly justify buying it for the massive discount I got it for and would definitely not at all recommend it at full price. This is once more a case of where the math worked out for me because I wanted the pieces, but this wasn’t much fun building, it’s not much fun to look at and quite likely it wouldn’t be much fun to play with, either. Your money is definitely spent better on other sets.