According to the same Wikipedia entry on the Lone Ranger movie: "In what may turn out to be the sign of a marketing misjudgment, according to Disney's own numbers, 68% of ticket buyers were over 25 years old and nearly 25% over 50 years old, a much higher percentage than is typical for the studio." This says that this movie really did poorly with kids (and therefore LEGO buyers, on the argument that AFOLs are not the primary market for mass produced sets). I'd imagine it could be attributed to many potential reasons:
-Kids today don't really know the Lone Ranger. When I was a kid they still ran the old movie serials on the weekend afternoons, and there was a cartoon version on Saturday morning. And this was in the day of three major networks. I'm not aware of these running even on random cable networks - they may well be somewhere, but I think it's obscure if so.
-On a broader level, maybe kids these days just aren't into westerns. Are there any really popular western TV shows or movies for kids right now? I can't think of any.
-Really bad marketing on Disney's part. A really good marketing campaign might have overcome the two points above, but they don't seem to have put in the effort.
-Too much competition from other kids' fare. We went to the movies this weekend and had four animated movies to choose from - Despicable Me 2, Monsters University, Turbo and the Smurfs 2 (semi-animated on this last), and Planes comes out soon. If our kids were older, we would have also considered the comic book and other action movies. This isn't always the case. Importantly, some of these are Disney products, and so the Disney promotional machine isn't really going to focus on the Lone Ranger, when they're much more likely to be pushing MU, Planes, and Iron Man 3.
And so I think the main audience for this movie was left to older viewer based on a nostalgic connection to the material.
I really think that LEGO needs to rethink their license strategy when it comes to blockbuster movies. So many of these movies are all driven by marketing that leads up to the opening weekend (when the studios make a bigger percentage of profit than subsequent showings), and after that the movie drops off the radar. A LEGO theme based on such a movie is going to have its best sales leading up to the opening, but will then fall off. OTOH, there are movies where the movie itself is only a small portion of a much longer chain with an ongoing active fanbase. For example, any comic book movie, Tolkien, and Star Wars. Yes, you could say that Speed Racer and the Lone Ranger had a long term pedigree, but there wasn't any real active fandom of these in recent years. The relaunch of the Star Trek franchise would potentially be an example of a fruitful theme (assuming they could figure out good sets to relate to it), but I assume that is precluded by the Star Wars license agreement, and other building toys have the Star Trek license. I covered some of this ground five years ago with my Dear LEGO: Please DON'T make a ____ theme
BTW, and getting back on topic, I should note that the Simpsons do potentially fit the criteria I suggested for a fruitful theme in that thread. IF, and IMO this is the big if, their popularity hasn't waned too much in the last decade. My criteria in that thread were:
1. A licensed theme should tap into a proven long term product, so it's not just a flash in the pan that will be on the clearance shelves in six months.
2. A licensed theme should be broad in scope - not just limited to a particular movie, but rather into a whole universe surrounding that theme. That way you won't run out of set designs after a year.
3. A licensed theme should appeal to both kids and adults. Bonus if there is already an established collector/geek community among adults.
4. A licensed theme should provide something that a non-licensed theme does not. Ideally this should be more than just minifigs.
5. A licensed theme should have a variety of build possibilities - ideally both vehicles and locations.
On the Simpsons:
1. 20+ years on TV, a movie, video games, toys
2. Over those years they've tapped into lots of different genres, locations, etc
3. All of these apply, though as I've said I think the popularity has waned a lot since the heyday
4. Of course there are all of the figs, but I also think that they could have unique builds for the sets if they successfully capture the cartoon aesthetic of the show.
5. Buildings like the Simpson home, Kwik-E-Mart, power plant, (they'll never do Moes or the church), building interiors like Krusty's studio and Bart's classroom, stand-alones like Bart's treehouse, a couple of cars, and that's not counting if they did one-offs like the car Homer designed, the monorail, etc.