Box Office Preview: 'SpongeBob' Set to Dethrone 'American Sniper'

Nickelodeon

'Seventh Son' is looking grim, while 'Jupiter Ascending' finally opens after being pushed out of summer 2014.

Sequel The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is expected to soak up plenty of business in its North America debut, as well as steal the top perch from Clint Eastwood's blockbuster American Sniper.

Box office pundits expect the $66 million film, based on the wildly popular Nickelodeon TV series, to open in the $35 million to $40 million range (there's some who believe it will do more), a tidy sum for Paramount Animation and Nickelodeon Movies. The family title made a nice splash last weekend overseas, where it made $8 million from its first five territories.

Out of Water opens a decade after The Spongebob SquarePants Movie played in theaters, grossing north of $130 million globally. The first film was directed by Stephen Hillenburg, creator of the television show. This time, series writer and executive producer Paul Tibbitt directs, with regular cast members Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Clancy Brown, Carolyn Lawrence and Mr. Lawrence reprising their roles. Antonio Banderas, who plays a villainous pirate, and Slash also star.

Sniper is expected to come in at No. 2 with $25 million for a domestic total north of $275 million by the end of Sunday. The Oscar-nominated film, starring Bradley Cooper, finished first for three consecutive weekends, breaking numerous records for partners Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow.

The stunning performance of Sniper is a needed boost for Warners and Village Roadshow as they prepare to open the long-delayed sci-fi epic Jupiter Ascending, directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski, and starring Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis. The film is likely to open in the low $20 million range, if not $20 million, a disappointment considering it cost at least $150 million to make.

Jupiter Ascending, originally set to hit theaters in summer 2014, could make up ground overseas, where it likewise launches in numerous markets this weekend.

The biggest loser of the weekend looks to be Legendary Pictures' Seventh Son, a fantasy adventure starring Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore whose net budget was $95 million. Tracking suggests the 3D title will only debut in the $7 million to $10 million range domestically. 

The good news for Legendary is that Seventh Son has already earned $82 million internationally, including $26 million in China, where Legendary East is releasing the movie and where the country's state-owned film company China Film Group made an eight-figure investment in the film.

Universal is distributing Seventh Son on behalf of Legendary, and has yet to open it in 15 foreign markets. In North America, it is tracking best among males but, in general, will have to compete with Jupiter Ascending for attention.

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