Weekend Box Office (February 6 - 8, 2015)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Clint Eastwood's runaway blockbuster and two new action films were no match for the animated comedy The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water which rocketed to number one in North America with a spectacular debut of an estimated $56M. It was the second largest opening weekend ever for an animated film in February behind only The LEGO Movie's $69.1M from this same frame last year. With the Presidents Day holiday coming up next week plus many schools closing for winter breaks later this month, the road ahead looks promising for SpongeBob. LEGO went on to end with nearly four times its opening weekend haul.

Based on the popular Nickelodeon series, the new toon easily outpaced the $32M bow of the first film in the franchise - The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie from November 2004. Tickets cost more now and the new flick has a 3D option but certainly the brand is alive and well and has been rejuvenated. Paramount invested strongly in marketing plus the new pic brought something new to the table with a portion of the film featuring the characters going live-action. SpongeBob's opening was nearly identical to the $56.2M of Disney's Big Hero 6 from last November.

Reviews were positive which is good for an animated film that is not original. But audiences who came out were not too pleased as evidenced by its B CinemaScore grade. Kidpics usually fare much better. Surveys were high from children, but poor from parents. The PG-rated project cost $74M to produce. Paramount scored big last summer from Nickelodeon with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which grossed $478M worldwide and is cashing in again with another popular property from this corporate sibling. Another Turtles film is being prepped for next year for the studio which now has two re-energized franchises.

Competition was not tough. The only film to succeed with families this year has been Paddington which is old now. And the last major animated film was Thanksgiving's Penguins of Madagascar which performed poorly. In fact, SpongeBob opened better than nine of the last ten toons from DreamWorks Animation. Since Baymax hit theaters three months ago, there has not been a single toon that audiences were truly excited for.

Overseas, SpongeBob has grossed $26.8M to date from 25 territories, many launching before the U.S. Six of the top ten international markets will open later this month so there is plenty of cash still to come as Paramount rolls out the year's first animated smash around the world to coincide with local school holidays.

Following its three-week reign, Clint Eastwood's American Sniper dropped to second but still posted a sensational hold dipping only 21% to an estimated $24.2M. That was right in line with how recent military dramas have done following Super Bowl weekend with last year's Lone Survivor dropping 22% and the previous year's Zero Dark Thirty sliding by 23%.

Cume to date is now a staggering $282.3M for Sniper which has just surpassed The Matrix Reloaded to become the second highest grossing R-rated film of all-time behind only The Passion of the Christ which did $370.3M in 2004. The Bradley Cooper film has also now grossed more than all the other Best Picture Oscar nominees combined. Making it to the $350M neighborhood seems likely.

The latest big-budget flop from the Wachowski siblings Jupiter Ascending crashed and burned this weekend opening to just $19M, according to estimates, taking third place. Costing over $175M to produce, the sci-fi action pic averaged $5,973 from 3,181 sites and had help from higher 3D and IMAX ticket prices. Recent big-budget action flops like After Earth, John Carter, Battleship, and The Lone Ranger all opened better than Jupiter.

This was the third consecutive time the Wachowskis were given a huge bag of cash to make an effects-driven action film which ultimately was rejected by audiences. Following 2003's Matrix sequels, they had Speed Racer in 2008 and Cloud Atlas in 2012. All films were from Warner Bros. These last three duds look to end up with combined domestic grosses of only about $115M while having combined budgets of over $400M with much more on top of that for marketing. International grosses help, of course, but these are three money-losing ventures in a row. It will be interesting to see if the studio continues to do business with the sibling filmmakers any more.

Jupiter boasted some good starpower with Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis who have sold films well in recent years. But reviews were terrible and the plot did not come across in the trailers. Studio data showed that 57% of the audience was male and a whopping 82% was over 25. Teens and young adults had no interest in this first PG-13 project from the directors. The CinemaScore grade was a lackluster B-. Large declines are likely to follow, but on the bright side, Jupiter Ascending is already a top awards contender - for next year's Razzies.

Another new effects-heavy action epic rejected by moviegoers followed in fourth place. The historical adventure Seventh Son bowed to just $7.1M, according to estimates, for a dreary $2,470 average from a wide 2,875 locations. With an estimated production cost of $95M, the Universal release was utterly rejected by domestic audiences. Horrendous reviews did not help the PG-13 pic, nor did slotting the much-delayed film against another effects-driven action offering. Studio research showed that the few who did turn out came from Jupiter's demo - 61% male and 53% over 30.

Produced by Legendary, Seventh Son already started its international roll-out where it is now up to $83.6M from 49 markets including $25.5M from its top territory, China. This is the latest in a growing list of Hollywood action films that gross more in China than in the US, but still its overall global outlook seems gloomy considering the cost of making and marketing the film worldwide.

Despite the arrival of Squidward and pals, the family pic Paddington held up well dropping 35% to an estimated $5.4M raising the cume up to $57.3M for The Weinstein Co. Paramount's low-cost Project Almanac dropped 36% from Super Bowl weekend to an estimated $5.3M. The $12M-budgeted pic from producer Michael Bay looks headed for a $25M finish.

Off a scant 3%, The Imitation Game continued to cash in on Oscar nominations and collected an estimated $4.9M for a $74.7M total to date for The Weinstein Co. This one has no real expectation of actually winning the biggest prizes, but is using awards attention to cash in at the box office from adults wanting to see high profile contenders with the Academy's seal of approval. Close behind was The Wedding Ringer with an estimated $4.8M, down just 16%, with a $55.1M sum for Sony.

Falling 27% in its second weekend was Kevin Costner's Black or White with an estimated $4.5M and a weak $13.1M overall for Relativity. Universal's JLo thriller The Boy Next Door rounded out the top ten with an estimated $4.1M, down 33%, and a $30.9M cume.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $135.3M which was up 2% from last year when The LEGO Movie opened at number one with $69.1M; and up a sizable 64% from 2013 when Identity Thief debuted on top with $34.6M.

Compared to projections, The SpongeBob Movie soared higher than my $31M forecast while both Jupiter Ascending and Seventh Son were very close to my respective predictions of $18M and $6M.

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Be sure to check back on Monday for final figures and again on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Fifty Shades of Grey and Kingsman: The Secret Service both open.

# Title Feb 6 - 8 Jan 30 - Feb 1 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The SpongeBob Movie $ 55,365,012 3,641 1 $ 15,206 $ 55,365,012 Paramount
2 American Sniper 23,289,113 30,660,528 -24.0 3,885 7 5,995 281,389,352 Warner Bros.
3 Jupiter Ascending 18,372,372 3,181 1 5,776 18,372,372 Warner Bros.
4 Seventh Son 7,217,640 2,875 1 2,510 7,217,640 Universal
5 Project Almanac 5,232,672 8,310,252 -37.0 2,900 2 1,804 15,661,312 Paramount
6 Paddington 5,220,940 8,267,864 -36.9 2,888 4 1,808 57,124,415 Weinstein Co.
7 The Wedding Ringer 4,719,532 5,690,243 -17.1 2,138 4 2,207 54,997,220 Sony
8 The Imitation Game 4,687,391 5,010,913 -6.5 1,963 11 2,388 74,546,178 Weinstein Co.
9 Black or White 4,537,267 6,213,362 -27.0 1,823 2 2,489 13,139,951 Relativity
10 The Boy Next Door 4,111,835 6,081,045 -32.4 2,193 3 1,875 30,861,390 Universal
11 Taken 3 2,314,437 3,745,914 -38.2 1,507 5 1,536 85,042,496 Fox
12 Selma 1,690,342 2,567,641 -34.2 941 7 1,796 46,422,326 Paramount
13 The Loft 1,447,948 2,747,342 -47.3 1,841 2 787 5,201,632 Open Road
14 Birdman 1,301,830 1,479,629 -12.0 666 17 1,955 35,135,202 Fox Searchlight
15 The Theory of Everything 993,809 983,098 1.1 602 14 1,651 32,035,483 Focus
16 A Most Violent Year 955,004 1,512,224 -36.8 706 6 1,353 4,604,786 A24
17 Strange Magic 883,531 3,361,664 -73.7 1,322 3 668 11,467,444 Disney
18 Still Alice 881,000 622,000 41.6 135 4 6,526 2,578,000 Sony Classics
19 Into The Woods 852,830 1,902,385 -55.2 750 7 1,137 125,718,156 Disney
20 Whiplash 772,000 720,000 7.2 479 18 1,612 9,583,000 Sony Classics
Top 5 $ 109,476,809 $ 59,533,051 83.9
Top 10 132,753,774 80,089,127 65.8
Top 20 144,846,505 94,304,354 53.6
Top 20 vs. 2014 144,846,505 146,727,956 -1.3

Last Updated: February 8, 2015 at 3:30PM ET

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