Blowing the doors off of all projections and expectations, Paramount and Nickelodeon’s The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water slayed Snipers, aliens, and seventh sons on its way to a massive #1 opening on the first weekend of February 2015. Looking to replicate the success that The LEGO Movie experienced in the same frame, this incarnation of SpongeBob SquarePants on the big screen, made more than half of the gross from the franchise’s first film in 2004.
More on him in a moment. The arrival of SpongeBob ended the three-weekend reign of Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper atop the box office rankings, although the film rallied to hold quite strong in its 7th weekend of release.
Elsewhere, the less said about Jupiter Ascending and Seventh Son the better. Both films, long delayed for numerous reasons by their respective studios and sharing a curious connection from years past, tanked badly. In the case of Seventh Son, this was not all that surprising, but the returns for Jupiter and what it may mean for Andy & Lana Wachowski could mean the big studio run for the ambitious and polarizing filmmaking siblings has come to an end.
Oscar nominated films were largely the only films to see any gains over the weekend, beyond a couple of films which expanded their theater counts. Largely, the news was static for you, unless you had the words Sponge, Sniper, Jupiter, or Seventh in your title.
Building a New Addition to that Pineapple, perhaps?
When The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie opened in 2004, some speculated it would earn an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature Film and be an easy $100 million-grossing film. As it turns out, neither of those things happened and Paramount put the film component to its lasting and trusted television franchise on hold. Over a decade later, looking to find some of the same treasures The LEGO Movie discovered a year ago, Sponge Out Of Water opened with a $55.4 million, the second largest February animated opening ever and the fifth largest February opening of all time. With a production budget of $74 million, overseas money has made the film profitable and domestically, the film could be on pace to bank more than $150 million by the time its theatrical run has concluded.
Adding to the appeal is the lack of fresh family film content at the multiplex. Disney’s Strange Magic was left to die on the vine and Paddington has performed well, but is starting to shed some of its audience. Simply said, the timing was right for SpongeBob and you can almost guarantee that the first high profile animated film of any given year is going to drop the first weekend in February for the foreseeable future.
(Watch this space…Universal’s Untitled Pets Project is scheduled for February 12, 2016 and it wouldn’t surprise me if it moves up one week to try and make three times a charm…)
Sadly, SpongeBob will be one and done in terms of ruling the box office rankings with the juggernaut of Fifty Shades of Grey imminently upon us. But, outside of McFarland, USA with Kevin Costner, there isn’t really a family film to consider until Disney’s live-action Cinderella drops on March 13. Paramount essentially has a month of box office all to themselves and it will be interesting to see just how big and success this SpongeBob movie becomes.
What Do You Even Say About Jupiter Ascending?
As I cue the band to play “Taps”, Jupiter Ascending likely spells the end for big budget, blank check, do whatever you want-freedoms for Andy & Lana Wachowski, the ambitious filmmakers behind such divisive films as Cloud Atlas, the Matrix trilogy, and Speed Racer. After scoring huge accolades on the independent scene with the still-fantastic crime drama Bound, the Wachowskis surged into the forefront with their groundbreaking and innovative Oscar-winning The Matrix in 1999. They hit the trifecta, blending astonishing visual effects, complex storytelling, and thoughtful, grounded science-fiction to the masses. And then they got $150 million to make the follow up films and while critics began to quickly sour on the franchise, audiences opened up wallets and purses to the tune of more than $1.2 billion worldwide in box office for The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions.
Diminishing returns were alarming for Revolutions however as the film soared overseas but grossed more than $140 million less than its predecessor in domestic box office. Their live-action Speed Racer adaptation lost money, banking $93 million worldwide on $120 million production budget. And yet, Warner Bros. kept giving them massive budgets, hoping they could catch lightning in a bottle again.
While Cloud Atlas was a massive bust here at home, Warner Bros. made just enough worldwide to make the nearly three-hour epic profitable. And so naturally, with the Wachowskis struggling to generate healthy ROI, Warner Bros. gave them their biggest budget to date – $176 million – for Jupiter Ascending.
Beginning with just $18.4 million here at home, the film will likely close in a few months with about $45-50 million domestic. Overseas, audiences were more forgiving and with a worldwide start of $55 million, the film is one-third of the way to profitability.
The film was expected to perform significantly better and the marketing campaign confused people as to what the film was about. Also, though well-liked, Mila Kunis is not a cinematic draw as of yet and Channing Tatum has been unable to open a film on just his name alone. Eddie Redmayne’s distancing himself from the film, in the throes of an Oscar race he hopes to win, also didn’t help matters much with his heightened visability not acknowledging the giant sci-fi/space epic he was involved with.
Not Even an Eighth, Ninth, or Twentieth Son Could Have Helped This…
Let’s just say that Seventh Son is not alone – sometimes film projects, despite all the best intentions and incredibly hard work, are just doomed to fail. While Universal would have begged for the returns Jupiter Ascending achieved over the weekend, their $95 million fantasy adventure opened with a paltry $7.2 million, drawing half the per screen average of the dismal returns for Jupiter Ascending.
Originally finished in 2012 (!), Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. had earmarked the film to open on February 15, 2013, but decided the film needed post-production work and delayed the film to October 2013. When a dispute before the release date between the production company and studio led to Legendary parting ways with Warner Bros., Seventh Son was a film caught in the crossfire, left to sit on a dusty shelf somewhere in the Legendary Pictures turnaround vault. After negotiating with Universal Pictures in 2013, they acquired the film and took a look at Sergei Bodrov’s film and immediately pulled its release date. Feeling it needed more work, back to the cutting room it went and in November 2013, a date was announced for 2014, then pulled, until February 6, 2015 was carved in stone as a make it or break it for the film in North America.
The secret behind the failure discussions of Seventh Son is that, in all honesty, Universal is playing with house money. Overseas, Seventh Son has already earned $83 million and the film needs to only gross $12 million domestically to make budget. Of course their hopes were higher – the benchmark for a film’s success is often whether it can make back its production budget in North American theaters – but this is not the financial failure many are reporting it to be.
Still, people did not care one bit about the seventh son of a seventh son and a prophecy with Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore starring in a YA adaptation where a Spook battles a Witch, with a young man (Ben Ward) caught in the middle of the conflict.
Wait. I mentioned Seventh Son and Jupiter Ascending were linked in their genealogy.
Seventh Son was a Warner Bros, project that was delayed and eventually taken from them by Legendary Pictures. This allowed additional monies to be shuttled over to another project Warner Bros. had in the works – Jupiter Ascending – a film they would also refuse to release because of “post-production work.”
Warner Bros. greenlighted both projects to the tune of $271 million and contributed substantial dollars to see both projects eventually open on the same weekend – and fail.
Beyond The Top 10
With regard to Oscar hopefuls trying to bank as much as they can before February 22…
The Theory of Everything gained 1.1%, raising its 14 week total to $32.0 million. The film has still yet to play in more than 1,000 theaters on any given weekend.
Julianne Moore’s Still Alice expanded to 135 locations nationwide (from 84 the week before) and gained 42% as a result. The film has grossed more than $2.6 million thus far in a small release.
Whiplash pushed its box office to $9.6 million with an 8% increase despite Sony Pictures Classics slashing its theater count. The biggest debacle of the Oscar contending films is the fact that this film has made such little money. The Blu-Ray/DVD hits on February 24, two days after the Oscar ceremony where the film could win as many as three Oscars (Supporting Actor, Sound Mixing, and Adapted Screenplay).
Mr. Turner got a boost of 46%, raising its 8-week total to $2.4 million, and Marion Cotillard’s Oscar-nominated turn in Two Days, One Night saw a theater increase from IFC Films, boosting its overall domestic totals to $881k.
Next Weekend: Fifty Shades of a Kingsman’s Secret Service!
Fifty Shades of Grey
Mr. Grey will be seeing a lot of you this weekend as the long-awaited adaptation of book #1 of the E L James “50 Shades” erotica trilogy has already set its first record – the largest R-rated opening theaters count of all time.
On 3,645 screens, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan will bring to life the story of Anastasia Steele falling in love and confusion with the self-made billionaire Christian Grey and learn of his particular peccadilloes and “unusual behavior”, as noted by the MPAA.
Let’s look at what is on the horizon for this coming weekend:
The largest opening weekend for an R-rated film is $91.8 million for The Matrix: Reloaded.
The largest Friday for an R-rated film is $31.3 million for The Matrix: Reloaded.
The largest box office weekend during the winter is American Sniper‘s $89.3 million a month ago.
The largest February opening ever is The Passion of the Christ, which began at $83.8 million.
The largest romantic drama opening ever belongs to Pearl Harbor, which opened with $59.1 million.
Based on tracking from Fandango and MovieTickets.com, and other industry sources, all of these records could potentially fall this weekend.
One other possibility: The film starts strong on Friday and word-of-mouth spreads and the film wanes considerably on Saturday and Sunday.
We shall see.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Hard to peg just how good Kingsman is going to do this weekend. Obviously, it is the definition of counterprogramming to Fifty Shades of Grey and yet, the film does not seem to be connecting with teenagers and/or young adults. The film is also Rated R for some strong violence, language, and sexual content, so younger viewers will likely not have a new movie option this weekend.
Director Matthew Vaughn will have his film out there – 3,100 screens have committed – his largest opening ever as a director for a film of his not called X-Men: First Class.
What is possible is that Kingsman could be the start of a franchise. Adapted from a six-part comic book series called “The Secret Service”, 20th Century Fox has not committed to that publicly and draws its film from the entire series. Still, money talks and if people are willing to turn out for this – perhaps Colin Firth has some job security for the next few years.
For Next Week…
How much pain will Fifty Shades of Grey inflict upon its competition? Can SpongeBob outwit the Secret Service?
And how will Christian romance Old-Fashioned perform on its small expansion, calling itself the anti-Fifty Shades of Grey, boasting that “Chivalry Makes A Comeback” in its marketing materials?
The Top 10 Grossing Films for the Week Ending February 8, 2015
1. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Control (Paramount)
$55.4 million, $55.4 million total, NEW (3,641 screens).
2. American Sniper (Warner Bros.)
$23.3 million, $281.4 million total, 7 weeks, -24% (3,885 screens).
3. Jupiter Ascending (Warner Bros.)
$18.4 million, $18.4 million total, NEW (3,181 screens).
4. Seventh Son (Universal)
$7.2 million, $7.2 million total, NEW (2,875 screens).
5. Project Almanac (Paramount)
$5.23 million, $15.7 million total, 2 weeks, -37% (2,900 screens).
6. Paddington (Weinstein Company/Dimension)
$5.22 million, $57.1 million total, 4 weeks, -37% (2,888 screens).
7. The Wedding Ringer (Screen Gems)
$4.71 million, $55.0 million total, 4 weeks, -17% (2,138 screens).
8. The Imitation Game (Weinstein Company)
$4.7 million, $74.5 million total, 11 weeks, -7% (1,963 screens).
9. Black Or White (Relativity)
$4.5 million, $13.1 million total, 2 weeks, -27% (1,823 screens).
10. The Boy Next Door (Universal)
$4.1 million, $30.9 million total, 3 weeks, -32% (2,193 screens).
Domestic and international figures are actualized on Monday afternoons (excluding 4-day weekends) and courtesy of BoxOfficeMojo.com and other news outlets.