‘SpongeBob’ Making $50 Million Splash at Box Office

After $15 million Friday, animated film will unseat “American Sniper” and dunk “Jupiter Ascending” and feeble “Seventh Son”

“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water” jumped into the box-office pool with a $15 million cannonball Friday, leaving “American Sniper” and two other wide openers in its wake as it headed for a $52 million debut this weekend.

“Jupiter Ascending,” Andy and Lana Wachowski’s sci-fi space opera, brought in $6.3 million Friday and is on pace for around $17 million for the three days. “Seventh Son,” the fantasy adventure from Legendary Pictures, brought in just $2.8 million and may not break $7 million for the weekend.

The two pricey epics will finish in third and fourth, behind “American Sniper,” which will see its three-week reign atop the box office end. The Clint Eastwood-directed war saga starring Bradley Cooper is looking at a $22 million fourth week after taking in $6.1 million Friday for Warner Bros.

”SpongeBob” has muscled up for Paramount Pictures in the decade since the character based on the hugely popular Nickelodeon TV series was last on the big screen. “The SpongeBob Movie” did $9.6 million in its first day and brought in $32 million in November of 2004, on its way to $84 million domestically and another $58 million overseas.

“Sponge Out of Water,” made for $74 million, could double those totals, especially with the boost it will see from 3D premiums.

”SpongeBob” has muscled up for Paramount Pictures in the decade since the character based on the hugely popular Nickelodeon TV series was last on the big screen. The original “SpongeBob Movie” did $9.6 million in its first day and brought in $32 million in its November debut in 2004. That one made $84 million domestically and another $58 million overseas. With its big start, the $74 million “Sponge Out of Water” could double those totals, especially with the boost it will see from 3D premiums.

The fast star by the pineapple-dwelling yellow fellow swamped the projections of analysts and the studio, who had predicted “Sponge Out of Water” would open in the $35 million range. It did it by connecting with teens and adults as well as kids, drawing an audience that was 50 percent under the age of 18 and 50 percent over. “The LEGO Movie” used the same formula on this weekend last year, on its way to $69 million debut for Warner Bros.

“Jupiter Ascending” and “Seventh Son,” expensive would-be blockbusters that languished in development limbo for years, surprised analysts too — but not in a good way.

Distributor Warner Bros. had hoped that sci-fi tale, written and directed by the Wachowskis and starring Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis and Eddie Redmayne, could hit $20 million this weekend. But the soft Friday showing confirms that “Jupiter Ascending” will have its best chance at recouping some of its $175 million production budget overseas.

The sputtering start by “Seventh Son,” starring Ben Barnes, Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore, assures a second pricey misfire in a row for Legendary Pictures, the production company behind the blockbuster “Dark Knight” and “Hangover” franchises. The box-office belly flop by the $90 million “Seventh Son,” which is based on Joseph Delaney’s novel “The Spook’s Apprentice,” comes on the heels of “Blackhat,” the $70 million cyber thriller that bombed last month.

That’s hardly the start Legendary founder Thomas Tull envisioned when he moved his deal from Warner Bros. to Universal two years ago.

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“American Sniper” is the highest-grossing war movie ever, and has taken in more than $264 million domestically since rolling out a day after earning six Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor on January 16.

On Friday it topped the $260 million total of Disney and Marvel’s “Captain America” The Winter Soldier” to become the third-highest grossing movie released in 2014, behind “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1″ ($335 million) and Disney’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” ($331 million).

Earlier in the week, it passed two other 2014 Warner Bros. blockbusters, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” ($252 million) and the studio’s animated hit “The LEGO Movie” ($258 million).

The Weinstein Company’s “The Imitation Game” will be the only other Best Picture Oscar contender in the top ten this weekend. The historical drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch took in $1.2 million Friday and is looking at $4.5 million in its 11th week in release. That would be just a 10 percent drop from last weekend, impressive since TWC cut it back by 439 theaters.

Three movies in their second week were coming off soft debuts. Two held up well and will finish the three days less than 40 percent down from their openings.

Paramount’s teen-targeting time travel tale “Project Almanac” is headed for sixth place and $5 million for the weekend after taking in $1.5 million Friday. And Kevin Costner’s racially charged drama “Black or White” brought in $1.3 million and is looking at $4.3 million for Relativity Studios.

But things got worse for the R-rated thriller “The Loft,” which brought in just $436,000 and will barely top $1 million for Open Road Films this weekend.

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