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."
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.