Weekend Wrap-Up

SpongeBob Surprises; Sniper Down

By John Hamann

February 8, 2015

Happiness is $56 million at the box office.

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After taking in 45% of the top 12 weekend box office since going wide, American Sniper – the literal savior of the January box office - falls to second this weekend. SpongeBob SquarePants is the guy responsible.

While SpongeBob surprised and American Sniper continued its dominance, the box office story of the weekend is two very expensive flops that are going to make headlines. Opener Jupiter Ascending, with its $176 million production budget (some say $190 million) and sub-$20 million domestic opening, is in real trouble for Warner Bros. With this kind of price tag, the new film from the Wachowski siblings would need to hit at least $500 million worldwide, and it looks like it will struggle earn 10% of that domestically. The other disaster is Legendary Pictures’ Seventh Son, which cost $90 million (some say more) and barely earned $7 million. The only good news for Seventh Son is that it has earned $82 million overseas already, which will lessen the blow. SpongeBob is the man this weekend, as he saves the box office from flaming out badly.

Our number one film of the weekend – a new film for the first time in three weekends – is The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. As ridiculous as the title sounds, the Paramount and Nickelodeon release popped, getting started with a $15 million Friday night and blowing away expectations as tracking was calling for a $30 million weekend. The Friday take was $5.5 million more than the first SpongeBob movie earned back in 2004. Released over the same weekend when The LEGO Movie popped last year, SpongeBob found some of the same magic, but it plays too young to match the $69 million debut of the LEGO sendup.


Over the rest of the weekend, SpongeBob continued to play well as the kids ate up the sponge out of water story. The film, which cost $74 million to make, finished the weekend with $56 million from 3,641 venues, many of which were 3D, giving the animated release the benefit of that markup. The score this weekend completely obliterates that of the first SpongeBob movie, which earned $32 million over three days back in 2004; however, that one cost $30 million – less than half of the follow-up release. The original earned $140 million worldwide in an era prior to the global dominance of Hollywood releases; it accumulated more domestically ($85 million) than it did overseas ($55 million). This time around, SpongeBob should see at least $150 million domestic, and in a global marketplace hungry for 3D entertainment, this one should do better this time around overseas than the original did.

Why did The SpongeBob movie break out? There has been a lack of movies for kids so far this year, with only Paddington released for the kiddies so far in 2015 (I don’t count Strange Magic, which has grossed all of $11 million so far). The Nickelodeon ad campaign for SpongeBob was great and included a Super Bowl spot, but the focus of the campaign was on SpongeBob’s time out of the water, which I understand is a very small portion of the actual film. This fact may be why the film received only a B Cinemascore; however, if we isolate the grade to just those under 18, it rises up to an A-.

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