THE original Lego Movie was a blockbusting hit – but its less successful sequel has been partly blamed for a slump in attendance at the Legoland attractions run by Poole’s Merlin Entertainments.

Merlin has posted a 22 per cent fall in underlying pre-tax profits to £34million for the six months to June 29.

It said the performance of its Legoland parks had been “disappointing” due to difficult market conditions and “limited momentum” from The Lego Movie 2.

Four years ago, Merlin reported a big rise in profit after the first Lego Movie – with its catchphrase “Everything is awesome” – drove visitors to Legoland.

Merlin said visitor numbers to its attractions rose three per cent to 30.8m, which was “broadly” in line with expectations in what is traditionally its quieter period.

Revenue grew by 8.1 per cent overall to £763 million.

Midway attractions, including Madame Tussauds and Sea Life, and resort theme parks returned to growth as the group added more attractions and accommodation. However, Legoland sites failed to attract as many visitors.

Chief executive Nick Varney said: “Group performance year to date has been broadly in line with our expectations in the seasonally quieter first half of the year, with 6.5 per cent organic revenue growth driven by a combination of like for like growth, continued contribution from new openings and the benefit of a diversified portfolio.

“After a number of years of headwinds, it is pleasing to see both midway and resort theme parks returning to better levels of like for like revenue growth, with improved cash generation.”

He added: “Trading in Legoland Parks has however been more disappointing. Although we enjoyed a strong Easter and spring break performance, trading since then has been affected by poor weather in May and June, difficult market conditions in a number of countries and limited momentum from The Lego Movie 2.

“With eight new midway attractions opened in the period, 372 new accommodation rooms, and the ongoing development of new Legoland parks, we continue to build on our position a unique, multi-format international operator of strongly branded and IP-led location-based entertainment.”

Merlin has eight Lego-themed parks around the world, including at Windsor. It plans to open Legoland New York next year, although its update warned that “timetable and cost are under pressure given the sale and complexity of the project”. The accommodation at the park is not now expected to open until 2021.

Merlin’s board recently urged shareholders to back a £5.9billion takeover bid from the owners of Lego, a private equity giant and a Canadian pension fund.

The Lego Movie 2, dubbed by Forbes magazine a “franchise-ending failure”, earned 191m US dollars at the box office worldwide – well up on its 99m US dollar budget but disappointing after the original film’s 469.2m US dollars worldwide.