Sixteen years after SpongeBob SquarePants first appeared on television, the yellow animated character made a splash on the big screen this weekend with the release of "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water."
The film opened to an estimated $56-million gross in the U.S. and Canada over the weekend, exceeding tracking projections and pushing "American Sniper" out of the top spot after its three-week reign there.
For the Record
Feb. 8, 5:09 p.m.: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Megan Colligan is Paramount's president of domestic marketing and distribution. She is Paramount's president of worldwide marketing and distribution. It also said that Mila Kunis' character in "Jupiter Ascending" becomes a target for the queen of the universe. She is a target of universal royalty, but the queen is dead.
The film follows Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a young woman born on Earth whose “genetic signature” marks her as a target for elimination by the queen of the universe. Channing Tatum and Eddie Redmayne also have featured roles.
New releases "Jupiter Ascending" and "Seventh Son" -- both with lofty budgets -- didn't fare as well, grossing $19 million and $7.1 million, respectively.
"SpongeBob," from Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon, cost about $74 million to make. It follows the popular underwater characters in live action as they come ashore. Antonio Banderas voices cranky pirate Burger Beard.
The original "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" made $32 million in its debut weekend in 2004 and went on to gross about $85.4 million.
"I think there is a cultural coolness to this character that has kept him very beloved," said Megan Colligan, Paramount's president of worldwide marketing and distribution.
About 98% of people surveyed by Fandango, the nation’s largest online movie ticket company, said they have watched the “SpongeBob SquarePants” animated series on Nickelodeon.
The film attracted mostly teen and family audiences: An estimated 50% of moviegoers were younger than 18. It also had a diverse turnout, with Latinos making up about 25% of audiences and African Americans making up about 19%. It played well across the U.S., in a mix of small-town and big-city theaters.
Audiences responded well to the film, giving it an average grade of A-minus from polling firm CinemaScore. Critics gave it a solid 75% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Releasing the film in February also provided a boost. This time last year, Warner Bros. saw huge success with its animated hit "The Lego Movie," which had a robust $69.1-million debut.
Paramount expects "SpongeBob" to continue to do well, with the upcoming three-day weekend and the lack of new animated films to compete with in the market.
"American Sniper" fell just 21% from last weekend, adding about $24.2 million to its domestic box office haul of $282.3 million.
The war drama cost Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow about $58 million to make. Adapted from the Chris Kyle autobiography of the same name, the film follows the story of Kyle (Bradley Cooper), a Navy SEAL known as the most lethal sniper in American history.
Thanks to awards buzz, strong critical reception and an A-plus CinemaScore grade from audiences, Clint Eastwood's film is likely to cross the $300-million mark in the next week.
The sci-fi film "Jupiter Ascending," which cost $179 million to make, met modest tracking expectations.
The film follows Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a young woman born on Earth whose “genetic signature” marks her as a target for elimination by universal royalty. Channing Tatum and Eddie Redmayne also have featured roles.
Warner Bros. pushed back the film's release from July 18 to leave more time for post-production of the visual-effects-heavy film.
It is the latest film from writing and directing duo Andy and Lana Wachowski, who were behind “Cloud Atlas" and the "Matrix" films.
Like many of the Wachowski's other films, "Jupiter Ascending" played strongly among younger-to-middle-age male audiences. About 57% of moviegoers were male and 48% were younger than 35.
"When we greenlit the movie, we had an expectation that it would hit a wider audience," said Jeff Goldstein, the studio's executive vice president and general sales manager. "But the Wachowskis made a visually stunning film and they have a faithful fan base. ... Our hope is that it will play well in the coming weeks."
Audiences gave the film a B-minus rating on CinemaScore, but only 22% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave it a positive review.
Universal Pictures and Legendary's fantasy adventure "Seventh Son" drew a core audience similar to that of "Jupiter Ascending." The fantasy adventure, which cost about $95 million to make, is based on the book series “The Last Apprentice” by Joseph Delaney. It stars Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes and Julianne Moore.
It has pulled in a hefty $82 million internationally, but in the U.S. it got poor reviews from critics and a B-minus CinemaScore rating.
The box office overall is up 10.4% year-to-date. The upcoming three-day weekend, which includes Valentine’s Day as well as Presidents Day, is likely to propel the box office to even greater numbers with help from Universal Pictures' “Fifty Shades of Grey” and Twentieth Century Fox’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service."
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