Box Office: 'SpongeBob' Soars to $56M Debut, Topples 'American Sniper'
Paramount's sequel, combined with the wild success of 'The Lego Movie' on the same weekend in 2014, firmly establishes February as a home for animated fare; 'Big Hero 6' crosses the $500 million mark globally.
Coming in ahead of industry projections, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water soaked up an estimated $56 million from 3,641 theaters in its North American debut, giving new life to the family franchise and wresting the top spot from American Sniper.
The performance of the Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies sequel, combined with the blockbuster success of The Lego Movie on the same weekend a year ago, firmly establishes February as a home for animated fare (Lego debuted to a whopping $69.1 million). And overseas, SpongeBob is doing five times more business than the first film, grossing $26.8 million to date from 25 territories — including $11.1 million in Mexico — for an early worldwide total of $82.8 million.
The news ranged from bad to terrible for big-budget sci-fi epics Jupiter Ascending and Seventh Son. The long-delayed Jupiter, starring Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis, opened to $19 million from 3,181 theaters despite costing $150 million to make, while Seventh Son, starring Jeff Bridges and the Oscar-nominated Julianne Moore, bombed with $7.1 million from 2,875 locations (the latter cost a net $95 million).
Jupiter Ascending did win the overseas race with an okay $32.5 million from 65 countries, faring best in Eastern Europe and Asia. Russia led with $4.7 million, followed by France with $2.3 million. It has yet to open in China, Japan and Australia.
In North America, Sniper beat both Jupiter and Seventh Son to come in No. 2 with $24.2 million from 3,885 theaters in its fourth weekend in nationwide release. Clint Eastwood's Oscar-nominated film has now grossed $282.3 million domestically.
Out of Water, earning a B CinemaScore, hits theaters more than a decade after The Spongebob SquarePants Movie opened to $32 million domestically on its way to earning $130 million globally. The first film was directed by Stephen Hillenburg, creator of the Nickelodeon 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.
"In the U.S., the movie definitely has multi-generational appeal. It did a lot of business at night. And overseas, you can see how much the brand has grown," said Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore. Spongebob opened in a handful of markets last weekend, including Mexico, where its total take compares to $3.5 million all in for SquarePants. And in Brazil, the sequel has grossed $4.6 million.
"Hopefully, it won't take 10 years to make another film," Moore said.
The success of Sniper is sure to soften the blow of Jupiter Ascending for partners Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow. Directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski, Jupiter was originally supposed to open in summer 2014, but was delayed at the the eleventh hour.
Jupiter Ascending skewed heavily male (57 percent) despite its female heroine, a mere earthling who discovers she is a galactic queen. It also played notably older despite its youthful stars, with 82 percent of ticket buyers over the age of 25 (it's likely that Wachowski fans made up a large share of the audience).
The film earned a B- CinemaScore from American audiences; ditto for Seventh Son.
Seventh Son stars Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore, who is nominated for an Oscar for best actress for Still Alice. The tentpole is the second box office dud in a row for Legendary after Michael Mann's Blackhat, at least domestically.
The good news for Legendary is that Seventh Son, coming in No. 4, has already earned $83.6 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. Still, that won't be enough to stem a loss.
Universal is distributing Seventh Son on behalf of Legendary and has yet to open it in 15 foreign markets.
Despite competition from Spongebob, British family film Paddington rounded out the top five in its fourth weekend with a sturdy $5.4 million from 2,888 theaters for a domestic total of $57.3 million and worldwide total of nearly $200 million. The Weinstein Co. is distributing the movie in the U.S. on behalf of StudioCanal.
Another family film also made headlines globally this weekend — Disney's Oscar nominee Big Hero 6, which jumped the $500 million mark, thanks to a heroic run in Japan, where it has now earned $66.7 million. Domestically, the Disney Animation Studios title has earned $218.6 million domestically and $286.6 million internationally for a total $505.1 million.
Back in the U.S., TWC also continued to see strong results for The Imitation Game, another best picture contender. The British biopic, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, fell just 3 percent to $4.9 million from 1,963 theaters for a North American total of $74.7 million.