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Top Ten Takeaways: Family-Friendly ‘SpongeBob’ Knocks ‘Sniper’ Off Top Spot

Top Ten Takeaways: Family-Friendly 'SpongeBob' Knocks 'Sniper' Off Top Spot

Three new wide releases with a combined cost approaching $300 million resulted in one hit and two costly misses. “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” (Paramount) didn’t quite match the performance of “The LEGO Movie” a year ago, but despite this and two widely panned bellyflops (“Jupiter Ascending” and “Seventh Son”), the Top Ten actually increased a tick.

The good news: year to date is up just under 11%, and next week’s expected massive start for “50 Shades of Grey” should continue the surge. Continuing the trend from 2014, other demographics are filling in for the missing 15-24 year male audience, which can no longer be described as “core.”

The Top Ten

1. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Criticwire: B-; Metacritic: 72; Est. Budget: $74 million
$56,000,000 in 3,641 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $15,380; Cumulative: $56,000,000
2. American Sniper (Warner Bros.) Week 7; Last weekend #1
$24,165,000 (-21%) in 3,885 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $6,220; Cumulative: $282,265,000
3. Jupiter Ascending (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Criticwire: C; Metacritic: 40; Est. Budget: $190-210 million
$19,000,000 in 3,181 theaters; PSA: $5,973; Cumulative: $19,000,000
4. Seventh Son (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Criticwire: C; Metacritic: 30; Est. Budget: $95-110 million
$7,101,000 in 2,875 theaters; PSA: $2,470; Cumulative: $7,101,000
5. Paddington (Weinstein) Week 4; Last weekend #3
$5,365,000 (-35%) in 2,888 theaters (-415); PSA: $1,858; Cumulative: $57,268,000
6. Project Almanac (Paramount) Week 2; Last weekend #2
$5,330,000 (-36%) in 2,900 theaters (+7); PSA: $1,838; Cumulative: $15,759,000
7. The Imitation Game (Weinstein) Week 11; Last weekend #7
$4,881,000 (-3%) in 1,963 theaters (-439); PSA: $2,487; Cumulative: $74,740,000
8. The Wedding Ringer (Sony) Week 4; Last weekend #6
$4,800,000 (-16%) in 2,138 theaters (-682); PSA: $2,245; Cumulative: $55,100,000
9. Black or White (Relativity) Week 2; Last weekend # 4
$4,520,000 (-27%) in 1,823 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $2,479; Cumulative: $13,123,000
10. The Boy Next Door (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #5
$4,101,000 (-33%) in 2,193 theaters (-422); PSA: $1,870; Cumulative: $30,850,000

SpongeBob – Return of a Robust Animation Brand 

“SpongeBob” is a nice boost for Paramount in the key animation arena. The studio lost distribution rights (and market share) to Dreamworks Animation to Fox, but since then has their second smash (after their “Teenage Ninja Turtles” reboot) from in-house Nickelodeon Productions. They’ve been patient with this series — the initial film came out in 2004, with a $32 million initial take. Adding the overall higher ticket costs today (including 3D for some ticket buyers) the second installment is performing much better. They’ve kept the brand alive via other media, and deployed an aggressive kids-targeted social media campaign that hit its mark. This was a pure kids film — 75% under 25, mostly youngsters accompanied by adults. 

Remarkably, this gross is equal to “Big Hero 6″‘s opening in early November, and more than double “The Penguins of Madagascar” over Thanksgiving. That’s big time success for the brand, not usually considered in the same league as some other studios. It helps that it has been nearly three months since the last cartoon entry, and older-appeal “Paddington” has already played for three weeks. 

Weekend Losers

1. The Wachowskis and Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. is the most loyal of studios, and the $1.7 billion worldwide gross for “The Matrix” trilogy has now led to three films with the Wachowski siblings. Don’t be surprised if this is the last. It will be tough for the Wachowskis to raise again this level of cost (a reported $200 million). “Speed Racer” and “Cloud Atlas” (marking a $25 million indie acquisition for WB, plus marketing) at best grossed worldwide their production budgets, making them major losses.

Jeff Robinov during his tenure at Warners oversaw the Wachowskis and played a big role in pushing “Jupiter Ascending.” His successes at Warners were many, but he left long before this was completed (losing an internal succession power struggle). Expect Warners to blame him for this. He’s now set up with a great production deal at Sony, and when Amy Pascal was forced out this week, his name came up as a prime contender as successor. This won’t help boost his cause to replace her, but it would be tough to extricate him from his current deal in any case.

Warners spread the risk on this (via regular partner Village Roadshow), but this is a blow to all involved. One statistic in Warners’ box office report: only 18% of attendees were under 25. The duo directors were once gods to an army of fanboys. They do not connect with the upcoming generation.

2. Channing Tatum.
How Teflon is he? He has a terrific career going, with “Magic Mike” (and its upcoming sequel, whose trailer dropped, not coincidentally, this week), the “Jump Street” series and recent acclaim for “Foxcatcher.” But this flop takes a bit of luster off of him as the anchor for an expensive production. That actually might make him a winner – with his success in a broader range of films, he doesn’t need to compete for dumb tentpole anchor gigs.

3. Will Oscar nominees Julianne Moore & Eddie Redmayne get hurt?
One of the most repeated explanations for Eddie Murphy’s Oscar loss for “Chicago” was that the derided “Norbit” opened during the voting period (and scored a $34 million weekend). As Oscar balloting opens up, two lead frontrunners, Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne, have big roles in critically panned “Seventh Son” and “Jupiter” respectively. Luckily neither is the lead, and most Academy voters won’t go near them.  

4. U.S. exhibitors
It’s an up weekend, as “SpongeBob” (pulling patrons to concessions) joins “Sniper” as a smash and “50 Shades of Grey” awaits. So it’s mostly good news.

But here’s the rub. “Seventh Son” and “Jupiter Ascending” weren’t financed with domestic concerns at heart. “Son” (directed by the Russian veteran Sergei Bodrov) opened late last year in much of the world ($84 million so far, several major territories ahead). “Jupiter” has yet to show its foreign draw (“Cloud Atlas” did nearly 80% of its business overseas), but it can’t possibly recoup its high end cost. Studios keep green-lighting their high-end projects on perceived worldwide appeal. The domestic market and its preferences could start rebounding as a factor, to the benefit of the local business.

5. Jeff Bridges.
This great actor had a career surge after his Oscar win, with both “True Grit” and “Tron Legacy” scoring big the following year. But he’s never been a marquee draw, and didn’t boost either “R.I.P.D.” or “Seventh Son,” which will both end up as expensive failures. He will return to being what he always was: a strong character actor.

“American Sniper” Back in the Groove

The 21% drop is a bit less impressive coming after Super Bowl. The better gauge is the still decent combined 34% drop from using just Friday and Saturday. But in its fourth wide week, “Sniper” is still on 3,888 screens — more than “Guardians of the Galaxy” or “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One” had at the same point. And, in a very rare occurrence, “Sniper” kept its count at the same level as the previous week. I could only find “The Blind Spot” (which was going into Christmas and hadn’t opened in all potential theaters) and “Attack of the Clones” (which had an iron-clad contract) managing this feat. “Sniper” remains nearly universally strong, and more significantly, looks well positioned to top “Mockingjay” as the top 2014 domestic release, which looked less certain last weekend. The ongoing success takes a little, but hardly all, the sting off Warners’ “Jupiter” debacle.


A glance at the drops would suggest an impressive weekend, but remember this comes after the Super Bowl which depressed the last week numbers. So that means the relative drops are a better gauge. Other than “Sniper,” here’s the report card:

The Imitation Game” (Weinstein) lost about 20% of its runs, but reported only a 3% gross fall. My guess is the actuals reported tomorrow will be a bit larger (and this could drop a position), but in any case it continues to be, other than “Sniper” and its separate non-awards appeal the clear popular choice among top Oscar nominees.

“The Wedding Ringer” (Sony),down 21%, clearly is helped by the lack of any other non-kids comedies but also of getting good word of mouth. After a decent start, though below other Kevin Hart starrers, this has held on better than expected. Hart was one of the few people who reacted negatively to some disparaging comments in Sony’s hacked emails, but it would appear the studio has maximized his latest effort.

Black or White” (Relativity) started from a modest base last week. Its 27% drop should keep most runs intact next week (it was positioned in theaters most likely to have a chance to play a few weeks), and could creep up to somewhere between $20-25 million before it’s through, modest at best.

“Paddington” (Weinstein) took a hit (-35%) from “SpongeBob,” but hardly is down for the count. They lost a surprising number of theaters though and could face substantial exhibitor pressure to cut to matinees this week, perhaps combined with their own “Imitation Game.” Also, this estimate does look a bit generous, and don’t be surprised if they drop a spot when all numbers are in.

“Project Almanac” (Paramount) didn’t collapse (-36%) but still, despite its low budget when marketing costs are added in hardly looks like a success.

Last week’s other opener “The Loft” (Open Road) dropped out of the Top Ten ($1,474,000 in thirteenth place), and likely drops out of most theaters this week.

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