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Box Office: ‘SpongeBob’ Soaks Up $35 Million, ‘Jupiter Ascending’ Stumbles

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” is heading for a solid $35 million opening weekend at 3,641 U.S. locations, handily beating Warner Bros.’ high-priced “Jupiter Ascending,” which will wind up with a disappointing $20 million from 3,181 theaters, according to early estimates.

Warner Bros.’ “American Sniper,” in its fourth weekend, will likely finish ahead of “Jupiter Ascending” in the No. 2 slot at about $22 million, lifting its stunning total to about $280 million. And Universal-Legendary’s launch of “Seventh Son” showed little life with a projected $8 million opening.

“Jupiter Ascending,” co-financed by Village Roadshow and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski, carries a $175 million pricetag but has not been able to attract much positive buzz amid less-than-enthusiastic reviews. Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum star in a complex saga of space travel and genetic engineering.

“Jupiter Ascending” was pulled from its original July release date to give the Wachowskis time to finish the extensive special effects. Warner Bros. was betting that the Wachowskis could bring back the magic of the “Matrix” trilogy, which grossed more than $1.6 billion, but “Jupiter Ascending” appears to be the third consecutive high-concept dud for the siblings following “Speed Racer” and “Cloud Atlas.”

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“Jupiter” had been pegged in recent days for an opening in the low $20 millions, so Friday’s early results were not a big surprise. Friday estimates came in at about $7 million, including $1 million in Thursday night showings.

“SpongeBob” led the way on Friday with an opening day of nearly $9 million, including $560,000 from Thursday night. The movie, a combo of live action and animation, stars the regular TV cast of Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Clancy Brown, Carolyn Lawrence and Mr. Lawrence. It opens 11 years after “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” grossed more than $130 million worldwide.

The “SpongeBob” sequel will be able to attract families amid a market that’s seen only one recent significant entry aimed at children — the Weinstein Co.’s “Paddington,” which appeared to be heading for about $6 million in its third weekend for a U.S. total of $57 million.

Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper,” with six Oscar nominations, has dominated U.S. moviegoing for the past three weeks, with box office surpassing $258 million on Thursday. Last weekend’s decline was only 36%, signaling strong continued interest in the Iraq War drama — which should be well past the $300 million mark when Oscars are handed out on Feb. 22.

By contrast, “Seventh Son” will have vanished from the U.S. box office by then. The Jeff Bridges vehicle is performing far better overseas, with $82 million internationally, including $26 million in China — where China Film Group has invested in the film.

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