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Weekend adventure

'Treasure' bows; 'SpongeBob' hits bigscreen

Two films will attempt to dethrone “The Incredibles” this weekend: Paramount’s “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” launches in 3,212 theaters, while Disney bows “National Treasure” in 3,017 locations.

Also, after Universal’s successful 530-theater release of “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” last weekend, it is expanding the pic to 2,452 theaters today.

In the three-horse race to win the weekend, it looks like the mark to beat will be around $25 million, which is where “The Incredibles,” from Disney and Pixar, will be if it drops 50% in its third week. That was how much “Monsters, Inc.,” the last Pixar film released in November, dropped in its third frame.

That is also the same area Par is aiming for with its “SpongeBob” pic. In 1998, the first “Rugrats” movie, also adapted from a popular Nickelodeon toon, opened on the weekend before Thanksgiving to $27 million. The sequel, “Rugrats in Paris,” launched from the same berth and netted $22 million.

Par distrib prexy Wayne Lewellen said he hoped a wider aud would turn out for “SpongeBob” than “Rugrats.”

“‘Rugrats’ was exclusively a young audience. But with ‘SpongeBob,’ you have a broader following that reaches colleges,” he said.

Release of “Treasure” puts Disney in the strange place of competing with itself this weekend. The adventure pic, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and starring Nicolas Cage, has been gaining in recent tracking.

“Treasure” will play older than “Incredibles,” but with the toon playing so broadly, it overlaps auds with nearly every pic in the market. Disney distrib prexy Chuck Viane said with such stiff competition during the holiday season, he had to go with the best date possible for “Treasure.”

“If I didn’t (release a picture this weekend), someone else would have gone out with something just as good,” Viane said.

‘Bridget’ goes wide

U’s release of “Bridget” last weekend was limited to the top 100 markets, which is one of the reasons why it was able to average an astounding $16,385 per screen and gross $8.7 million. (Bigger cities have more expensive ticket prices.) In addition to taking it to basically every North American market this weekend, U will add some engagements in the cities where it has already opened.

Because of the unusual release pattern, it’s tough to say where “Bridget” will end up. The original “Bridget” opened to $10.7 million in 1,611 theaters.

On the limited side of the biz, the only new release is Pedro Almodovar’s “Bad Education,” which Sony Pictures Classics will start on three screens in Gotham. Almodovar’s previous pics, including “Talk to Her,” have successfully launched on the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Several pics will be expanding. Fox Searchlight is widening “Sideways” to 279 screens, up 135 from last weekend. It also will expand “Kinsey” in its second week to 36 screens, an addition of 31.

Sony Classics will boost “Being Julia” to 228 screens for the sixth week of its run, while Miramax is widening “Finding Neverland” to 57 screens after it opened on eight last weekend.

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