6TH UPDATE, MONDAY ACTUALS, 3:20 PM: Paramount’s SpongeBob SquarePants: Sponge Out Of Water came in with $635K less than its weekend estimate reported yesterday of $56M. Still, it’s a great gross for this time of year, especially when there aren’t a lot of kids out of school. Per Rentrak, only 1% of all K-12 and college students were off this Friday. That figure moves to 17% this Friday, and then 15% for the February 20-22 frame.

As reported this morning, Warner Bros./Village Roadshow’s Jupiter Ascending dropped ducats and is now filing $18.37M while Universal/Legendary’s Seventh Son is a $100K better with a $7.2M actual. They’re in for a hammering this coming weekend as two R-rated mass-appeal pics hit the sked: Universal’s long-awaited E.L. James bestselling adaptation Fifty Shades Of Grey at an estimated 3,600 theaters and 20th Century Fox’s Kingsman: The Secret Service on an estimated 3,100.

This weekend’s ticket sales are finaled at $151.59M, a tad better than what was expected yesterday and only -0.8% off from the same period a year ago. In the weekend following the Super Bowl, everyone went back to the movies with tickets sales up 49%.

SpongeBob nailed the best per-theater average out of all films this weekend with $15,206, followed by CJ’s South Korean action film Gangnam 1970 which made $18K at one location; Magnolia’s Ballet 422, about New York City ballet choreographer Justin Peck which drew $13,826 at two playdates; and Freestyle’s romantic drama Old Fashioned which made $12,988 at three theaters.

Keira Knightley Imitation GameAmong Oscar-nominated fare, TWC’s The Imitation Game ($74.5M) and Warner Bros./Village Roadshow’s American Sniper ($281.4M) are the only films that have truly crossed over. Since January 15, Selma has seen a 162% jump in its domestic cume. Whiplash has made $3.4M since being nominated, which translates into a 54% cume hike. However, other Oscar-nominated best pictures are posting smaller gains. Birdman, which has been steamrolling on the awards front with top PGA, DGA and SAG wins, has seen a 31% hike in its total cume, while The Theory Of Everything (which did post a 1% weekend B.O. gain) has seen a 22% uptick. The Grand Budapest Hotel crossed over to non-arthouse crowds last year.

Below are the top 20 films for the period of February 6-8, per Rentrak Theatrical:

1). The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water (Par), $55.365M, 3,641 locations, $15,206 average, $55.365M, 1 week

2). American Sniper (WB), $23.29M (-24%), 3,885 locations, $5,995 average, $281.4M, 7 weeks

3). Jupiter Ascending (WB), $18.37M, 3,181 locations, $5,776 average, $18.37M, 1 week

4). Seventh Son (Uni), $7.2M, 2,875 locations, $2,510 average, $7.2M, 1 week

5). Project Almanac (Par), $5.23M (-37%), 2,900 locations, $1,804 average, $15.66M, 2 weeks

6). Paddington (TWC/Dimension), $5.22M (-37%), 2,888 locations, $1,808 average, $57.1M, 4 weeks

7). The Wedding Ringer (Sony), $4.719M (-17%), 2,138 locations, $2,207 average, $54.997M, 4 weeks

8). The Imitation Game, (TWC), $4.687M (-6%), 1,963 locations, $2,388 average, $74.5M, 11 week

9). Black Or White (Rel), $4.5M (-27%), 1,823 locations, $2,489 average, $13.1M, 2 weeks

10). The Boy Next Door (Uni), $4.1M (-32%), 2,193 locations, $1,875 average, $30.86M, 3 weeks

11). Taken 3 (Fox), $2.3M (-38%), 1,507 locations, $1,536 average, $85M, 5 weeks

12). Selma, (Par), $1.69M (-34%), 941 locations, $1,796 average, $46.4M, 7 weeks

13). The Loft, (OPR), $1.45M (-47%), 1,841 locations, $787 average, $5.2M, 2 weeks

14). Birdman, Fox Searchlight, $1.3M (-12%), 666 locations, $1,955 average, $35.1M, 17 weeks

15). The Theory Of Everything (Foc), $994K (+1%), 602 locations, $1,651 average, $32M, 14 weeks

16). A Most Violent Year (A24), $955K (-37%), 706 locations, $1,353 average, $4.6M, 6 weeks

17). Strange Magic (Dis), $884K (-74%), 1,322 locations, $668 average, $11.5M, 3 weeks

18). Still Alice, (SPC) $856K (+55%), 135 locations, $6,340 average, $2.55M, 4 weeks

19). Into The Woods (Dis) $853K (-55%), 750 locations, $1,137 average, $125.7M, 7 weeks

20). Whiplash (SPC), $763K (+27%), 479 locations, $1,592 average, $9.57M, 18 weeks

Notables:

2015 Oscar Shorts (Shorts), $484K, 158 locations, $3,063, $1.04M, 2 weeks

Wild (SEA), $470K (-15%), 285 locations, $1,644, $36.4M, 10 weeks

Mr Turner (SPC), $240K (+54%), 79 locations, $3,039, $2.4M, 8 weeks

Foxcatcher (SPC), $181K (-22%), 175 locations, $1, 037, $11.7M, 13 weeks

Old Fashioned (Freestyle), $38,965, 3 locations, $12,988, $39K, 1 week

The Grand Budapest Hotel (SEA), $15,061 (-15%) ,24 locations, $628, $56.265M, 49 weeks

5TH UPDATE,  SUNDAY AM: Kids aren’t even on winter break yet, but from their moviegoing tendencies this weekend, one would think they were off in droves. Paramount is reporting a super $56M weekend for The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water at 3,641 theaters with a global cume to date of  $82.8M (the film was already in play last week, and made $16.2M at 3,216 theaters in 25 territories this weekend). This is the second SpongeBob film in 11 years, and if anyone thought that the 16-year old cartoon character’s popularity was waning, think again.  SpongeBob beat the opening of his November 2004 outing ($32M) by a whopping 75%, with 60% of its crowd under 25.  Among all February openers, SpongeBob currently ranks fifth, but he’s the second highest animated bow for the month after last year’s The LEGO Movie ($69.1M).   

american sniper newMeanwhile, Warner Bros/Village Roadshow experienced a yin-yang situation in slots two and three at the B.O. with American Sniper continuing to toss any wide entry (except SpongeBob) out of its way with a 21% dip in its seventh weekend for $24.16M and a running cume of $282.3M.  Though the studio’s Jupiter Ascending came in just a $1M shy of its $20M projection, it’s not a good enough start for what sources are telling me cost $205M-$210M.  Meanwhile, Universal/Legendary’s Seventh Son ranked fourth at the lower end of projected expectations with $7.1M.

The combined power of SpongeBob and American Sniper are driving total weekend ticket sales to $151M per Rentrak theatrical. While that figure is just 1.5% down from the same frame a year ago (due to LEGO Movie‘s bow), it’s an understatement to say that the 2015 domestic box office is on fire.  Through Feb. 8 per Rentrak, the year to date is at $1.2B, not only 10% ahead of last year, but an astounding 24% ahead of 2013 — the box office year that constantly cast a shadow over 2014.

spongebobMuch in the same way that Nickelodeon’s sister brand Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles worked on the bigscreen this summer, so did SpongeBob. It has been a beloved brand for 16 years, and it’s not just about kids flocking to see it, but the parents and now older twentysomethings as well.  SpongeBob’s audience was split 50/50 under above 18 years old with the unders giving it an A- Cinemascore (besting its overall B score). Guys were 53% while women repped 47% of SpongeBob‘s crowd.

Explaining how the second outing of SpongeBob 11 years later clicked with crowds, Paramount’s president of worldwide distribution and marketing Megan Colligan said, “When you turn out a sequel, you have to be clear in the marketing why this installment is fresh, new and interesting.  Obviously on a visual level, the characters were taken out of their world. That’s a big theatrical promise. People love seeing something new and fresh that they couldn’t experience by watching it on TV. The tone of the brand is consistent, but the visual sensibility is new and challenging.” Paramount executed a marketing campaign that not only hit the younger demos in the cyber realm, in particular with the SpongeBob: Sponge on the Run gaming app, but also placed TV spots on No. 1 rated shows across the broadcast networks as well as cult ones such as CW’s Vampire Diaries and The Flash. 

Marveling at the continued success of American Sniper, one exhibition executive said, “There are elements of Passion of the Christ here. You see moviegoers who never go to the movies, but this is that one film they have to see. It’s part of the zeitgeist.”  American Sniper continues to play both in cities and small towns. While the film is expected to final between $320M-$340M, anything beyond is as one distrib exec said, “because it has a mind of its own.”

jupiterWarner Bros.’s Jupiter was bolstered by 3D and IMAX which respectively made up 52% and 11.5% ($2.2M) of its weekend ticket sales.  Though the film drew a B- CinemaScore, better than the C+ the Wachowskis’ earned on Cloud Atlas, it earned a B+ among the under 18 set.  Warner Bros. will be releasing their foreign results later, but the only prayer this film has at breaking even is overseas.  Warner Bros. knowing the Wachowskis’ appeal abroad (Cloud Atlas did make close to 4x its domestic $27.1M abroad with $103.4m), greenlit this with the hope, like any big film, that foreign would always serve as insurance. Interestingly enough, the No. 1 reason in exit polls why moviegoers shelled out for the film was because of its genre, followed second by stars Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis. Jupiter attracted mostly older males with guy/girl ratio being 57%/43% and the over/under 25 being 82%/18%. RatPac Dune also covered some of Jupiter‘s budget per their deal with Warner Bros (sources say at 20%, while WB and Village Roadshow each had a 40% share).

Julianne Moore in a still from Seventh SonUniversal/Legendary’s The Seventh Son has a worldwide haul of $90.7M after its $7.1M stateside bow — that’s the only good news for this $105M-$110M misfire which Legendary has already taken a writedown on (Universal/Legendary reports the net budget is $95M, other sources throughout the weekend have continually told me higher).  Like Jupiter, mostly older guys gave into this at 61%/39% female, while 53% were over 30, and 27% under 30. As previously reported, Seventh Son earned a B-.  3D accounted for half Seventh Son‘s domestic opening. The film attracted mostly Hispanic and Caucasian crowds at 66% combined (35% and 31% respectively), with 17% African American, 10% Asian and 7% other.  This is the second straight bomb for Legendary after Blackhat during its new deal with Universal. Like Blackhat, Seventh Son was developed and shot prior to Legendary’s arrival at Universal. Legendary covers marketing costs, while Uni collects a distribution fee. The financiers are crossing their fingers for better days with Universal’s Jurassic World on June 12, Guillermo del Toro’s horror title Crimson Peak, scheduled for Oct. 16 which stars Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam and Jessica Chastain, as well as the NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton from director F. Gary Gray which has a Aug. 14 release date. Among arthouse audiences, Oscar nominated best actress Julianne Moore saw arguably better results with Sony Classics’ Still Alice which ranked 16 with $881K from 135 venues for a per theater of $6,529, up 59% in its fourth week for a running cume of $2.58M.

The top 10 per studio reported estimates:
*includes previews
1). The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water* (Par), 3,641 theaters  / $15M Fri. /$24.2M Sat. (+62%)/ $16.7M Sun. (-31%)/ 3-Day: $56M/ Wk 1

2). American Sniper (WB), 3,885 theaters (0)/ $6.2M Fri.  /$11.2M Sat. (+80%)/ $6.7M Sun. (-40%)/3-Day: $24.1M (-21%)/Total cume: $282.2M/ Wk 7

3). Jupiter Ascending* (WB), 3,181 theaters  / $6.3M Fri. /$7.6M Sat. (+19%)/ $4.9M Sun. (-35%)/ 3-Day: $19M/ Wk 1

4). Seventh Son* (UNI), 2,875 theaters  / $2.2M Fri. /$2.9M Sat. (+31%)/ $1.8M Sun. (-39%)/ 3-Day: $7.1M/ Wk 1

5/6). Paddington (TWC), 2,888 theaters (-415) / $1.1M Fri. /$2.5M Sat. (+132%)/ $1.6M Sun. (-35%)/ 3-Day: $5.3M (-35%) / Total cume: $57.2M /Wk 4

Project Almanac (Par), 2,900 theaters (+7) / $1.4M Fri. /$2.4M Sat. (+65%)/ $1.3M Sun. (-44%)/ 3-Day: $5.3M (-36%)/ Total cume: $15.7M/Wk 2

7). The Imitation Game (TWC), 1,963 theaters (-439) / $1.2M Fri./ $2.2M Sat. (+77%)/ $1.3M Sun. (-40%)/ 3-Day: $4.8M (-3%)/Total cume: $74.7M / Wk 11

8). The Wedding Ringer (Sony), 2,138 theaters (-682)/ $1.3M Fri. /$2.2M Sat. (+67%)/ $1.2M Sun. (-43%)/ 3-Day: $4.8M (-16%)/ Total cume: $55.1M /Wk 4

9). Black or White (REL), 1,823 theaters (0)  / $1.2M Fri. /$2M Sat. (+63%)/ $1.1M Sun. (-45%)/ 3-Day: $4.5M (-27%) / Total cume: 13.1M/Wk 2

10). The Boy Next Door (UNI), 2,193 theaters  (-422)/ $1.2M Fri. /$1.8M Sat. (+52%)/ $1M Sun. (-44%)/ 3-Day: $4.1M (-33%)/ Total cume: $30.8M/Wk 3

NOTABLES:
The Loft (OPRD), 1,841 theaters  (0)/ $436K Fri. /$649K Sat. (+49%)/ $389K Sun. (-40%)/ 3-Day: $1.4M (-46%)/Total cume: $5.2M/ Wk 2

Oscar Best Picture noms: 

Selma (Par), 941 theaters (-773) / $482K Fri./$775K Sat. (+61%)/ $463K Sun. (-40%)/ 3-Day: $1.7M (-33%)/Total cume: $46.4M / Wk 7

Birdman (FSL) 666 theaters (-310)/ $328K Fri. /$641K Sat. (+95%)/ $381K Sun. (-41%)/ 3-day cume: $1.3M (-8%)/Total cume: $35.1M/Wk 16

Whiplash (SPC) 479 theaters (-46)/3-day cume: $772K (+7%)/Total cume: $9.5M/Wk 18

The Theory of Everything (FOC), 602 theaters (-203)/ $252K Fri. / $475K Sat. (+88%)/ $295K Sun. (-38%)/3-day cume: $1M(+4%)/Total cume: $32M / Wk 14

4TH UPDATE, SATURDAY 1:45 AM: Insiders this weekend have nicknamed it the battle of the fanboy bombs, as both Warner Bros.’ Wachowski siblings’ “Cinderella in Space” VFX mashup Jupiter Ascending and Universal’s Legendary release Seventh Son are drowning under the weight of Paramount’s The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. After a super $14.3M in Friday industry estimates, SpongeBob is now expected to post a $53.1M weekend; a whopping 66% increase over his $32M big-screen bow in November 2004. Should SpongeBob stay on track, he’ll own the second-highest opening for an animated film in February behind last year’s The LEGO Movie ($69.1M) and the fifth highest FSS for the month.

american sniper 45Despite Jupiter’s stateside bombing, Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow can still relish Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, which shows no sign of slowing down. Its $6M Friday estimate is pointing toward a second place FSS haul of $22.5M, off 38% in its seventh frame. As we reported earlier, American Sniper should fly past $280M by Sunday. With two weeks to go til the Oscars, American Sniper and Weinstein Co.’s The Imitation Game remain the only two Best Picture-nominees left in the top 10 B.O., with the Alan Turing biopic set on raising its stateside cume to close to $75M by Sunday.

jupiter ass 2Even with the 3D ticket price upcharge, both Jupiter Ascending and Seventh Son are tracking below their respective original weekend projections of $20M and $7-$10M. Jupiter looks to earn $18.4M in third, while Seventh Son should settle for $6.68M in fourth. Jupiter made an estimated $6.7M on Friday while Seventh Son took $2.27M. According to CinemaScore, no one failed: All three wide entries received above-average grades. SpongeBob has the highest with a B, but its grosses are obviously besting its grade. Jupiter and Seventh Son both scored B-.  Within the Wachowski canon, Jupiter’s CinemaScore is a tad better than Cloud Atlas’ C+, but below the B+ earned by the siblings’ 2005 produced effort V for Vendetta, and the shocking A- earned by 2008’s Speed Racer. If Jupiter‘s grosses stay on track, its FSS won’t be that far from Speed Racer‘s bow of $18.6M. That $120M disaster made a little more than 2x its opening with a domestic cume of $43.9M.

While fanboy fare is typically front-loaded at the weekend box office with declining daily ticket sales over the three days, the Wachowskis’ titles typically go up on a Saturday night (Cloud Atlas even went up 9% from Friday to Saturday while Speed Racer rose 18% from its $6.2M Friday and V for Vendetta increased a similar percent from its $8.7M Friday). On the Tomatometer, SpongeBob has been a critics’ fave at 74% fresh, while Jupiter has 22% rotten and Seventh Son has 10% rotten.

Below is the weekend’s Top 10 per industry estimates for the Feb. 6-8:

1). The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water* (Par), 3,641 theaters  / $14.3M Fri. / 3-Day: $53.1M/ Wk 1

2). American Sniper (WB), 3,885 theaters (0)/ $6M Fri. (-38%) /3-Day: $22.5M (-27%)/Total cume: $280.5M/ Wk 7

3). Jupiter Ascending* (WB), 3,181 theaters  / $6.7M Fri. / 3-Day: $18.4M/ Wk 1

4). Seventh Son* (UNI), 2,875 theaters  / $2.27M Fri. / 3-Day: $6.68M/ Wk 1

5/6). Paddington (TWC), 2,888 theaters (-415) / $1.1M Fri. (-42%) / 3-Day: $5.3M (-36%) / Total cume: $57.2M /Wk 4

Project Almanac (Par), 2,900 theaters (+7) / $1.5M Fri. (-52%)/ 3-Day: $5.3M (-36%)/ Total cume: 15.8M/Wk 2

7). The Imitation Game (TWC), 1,963 theaters (-439) / $1.27M Fri. (-21%) / 3-Day: $4.66M (-7%)/Total cume: $74.6M / Wk 11

8). Black or White (REL), 1,823 theaters (0)  / $1.3M Fri. (-41%)/ 3-Day: $4.6M (-26%) / Total cume: 13.1M/Wk 2

9). The Wedding Ringer (Sony), 2,138 theaters (-682)/ $1.3M Fri. (-32%) / 3-Day: $4.5M (-20%)/ Total cume: $54.8M /Wk 4

10). The Boy Next Door (UNI), 2,193 theaters  (-422)/ $1.17M Fri. (-45%)/ 3-Day: $3.9M (-36%)/ Total cume: $30.6M/Wk 3

*includes Thursday previews

In the days leading up to Jupiter‘s release, the film received little social media tubthumping from its core cast and creators on their individual accounts (actress Tuppence Middleton did retweet the iTunes featurette posted on the @wbpictures Twitter).  Social media monitor RelishMix noticed how star Channing Tatum’s 17M FB and 6.8M TW accounts are clouded over by love for the actor’s upcoming summer film MagicMikeXXL and the Oscar-nominated Foxcatcher. Mila Kunis is completely unplugged from any social media, however, she fielded fans’ questions on Tuesday about the Wachowskis’ film via the @wbpictures Twitter account with the #AskMila. Jupiter co-director/writer Lana Wachowski’s last Tweet was #JeSuisCharlie on Jan. 17. In regards to Seventh Son, star Julianne Moore retweeted a few studio promo tweets and articles in the last week, while Jeff Bridges has been more passionate, tweeting original on-the-set photographs (for anyone keeping count, this is the duo’s first reteam since their 1998 cult pic The Big Lebowski).

Both Jupiter and Seventh Son suffered release date changes, plagued by VFX delays. I fielded calls yesterday from several sources regarding the production costs for both; that they’re significantly higher than what was originally floated.  I’m now hearing $190M $205M-$210M for Jupiter and $105M-$110M for Seventh Son. Nonetheless, risk has been spread around.  Sources tell me that Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow each handled 40% of the cost of Jupiter with 20% being kicked in by Warner Bros’ pact with RatPac-Dune Entertainment (which is a passive deal whereby the entity doesn’t select which films it co-finances).  Legendary mitigated its production cost on Seventh Son with China Film Group and rolled out the film abroad before domestic, generating $82M from 48 territories.

Unlike last weekend when Paramount’s creative marketing initiatives didn’t translate into a solid opening for its teen-targeted sci-fi pic Project Almanac –which made an estimated $1.5M in its second Friday at 2,900 on track for an industry projected $5.3M weekend (-36%, total cume $15.3M) – the studio’s promos for SpongeBob have clearly clicked at the box office.

Highlights from SpongeBob’s marketing campaign include its Super Bowl pre-game TV spot as well as a custom integration with the Puppy Bowl. Paramount effectively placed promos in each of the broadcast network’s top rated programs including ABC’s The Bachelor, Scandal, Modern Family and the premiere of Fresh Off The Boat; CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, 2 Broke Girls; CW’s The Flash and Vampire Diaries and Fox’s American Idol.

sponge on runThis week there were SpongeBob-themed games, editorial and video across highly trafficked websites including Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and kid gaming portals Roblox and Poptropica. A Yahoo! homepage takeover Thursday engaged 50M+ fans. Social takeovers included a Facebook Reach Block, Twitter Promoted Trend and a sponsored Instagram Video that reached 45M+ fans. The custom app, SpongeBob: Sponge on the Run has maintained top placement within the iTunes App store since its launch.

Elsewhere on the charts, Relativity’s Kevin Costner headliner racial drama Black or White is looking at a Friday take of $1.3M at 1,823 theaters, with a second FSS of $4.6M, off 26% for a projected 10-day cume of $13.1M.

3RD UPDATE, FRIDAY, 12:30 PM: Per industry-reported noon estimates, Paramount’s The SpongeBob Movie is looking to win Friday and the weekend with respective takes of $8.75M and $35.2M at 3,641 theaters. Warner Bros./Village Roadshow’s Jupiter Ascending is expected to take second today with an estimated $7M at 3,181, but could get beat by American Sniper for the weekend, with the Wachowskis’ sci-fi film nabbing $19.6M and the Clint Eastwood film taking $22.1M  at 3,885 with its domestic cume expected to hit $280M by Sunday. Sniper looks to make $6.1M today. In fourth place, Universal/Legacy’s Seventh Son is projected to make $2.75M at 2,875 with $7.8M for FSS.  All Thursday preview figures will be rolled into Friday B.O. results.

jupiter ascending 22ND UPDATE, FRIDAY, 11:30 AM: Warner Bros./Village Roadshow collected a decent portion of the Thursday night box office between its Jupiter Ascending preview, which made $1M, and its reigning champ American Sniper which filed No. 1 for the night with $2.5M at 3,885 locations. Paramount’s The SpongeBob Movie in 3D sneaked in more than 2,300 theaters, soaking up $560K, ranking behind Relativity’s Black Or White which was third behind Jupiter with $571K.

RelishMix, which monitors social media for films, notes that most of Jupiter Ascending‘s engagement on YouTube comes from international posts and reposted materials. Despite Jupiter‘s exorbitant $179M cost, rival distribs have noticed how the film’s marketing has increased tracking in recent weeks. However, even if Jupiter posts a $20M-$30M bow, that’s not enough to sustain a film of this magnitude.

Meanwhile, SpongeBob‘s social media has been spurred by the Super Bowl with 8.2M across YouTube, Facebook and Twitter from last weekend’s first-quarter game spot. Social activity per RelishMix leading up to opening has grown 9X. The Annoying Orange channel (4M subs), a beloved destination for kids, dropped a SpongeBob trailer last week where the Orange characters threw barbs at the screen.  It has collected over a half million views so far:

UPDATE, FRIDAY, 10 AM:  Universal’s The Seventh Son from Legendary posted $295,000 from 1,983 theaters last night. The film, which is reported at a net cost of $95M, isn’t expected to wow this weekend with a $7M-$10M opening. Recent male-demo fare — read Taken 3, Fury and even Exodus: Gods And Kings — have cleared $1M-plus in their Thursday previews, indicating weekend hauls of at least $20M.

Social media tracking for Seventh Son has been light, with 4,000 views per video on YouTube. Only one Seventh Son video (via the JoBlo YouTube channel) has daily views of 20K, and it was posted 18 months ago. Already, Legendary has reportedly taken a writedown on Seventh Son in the wake of the Michael Mann disaster Blackhat; however, brighter days are ahead with the film finance company’s share of Uni’s mega franchise Jurassic World.

Paramount’s Nickelodeon film The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water is expected to rule with a FSS in the mid $30Ms, while Warner Bros./Village Roadshow’s pricey Jupiter Ascending is hoping to grab those guys skipping Seventh Son, for a three-day of $20M.

PREVIOUS, WEDNESDAY AM: While Paramount’s Nickelodeon film The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is expected to unseat Warner Bros./Village Roadshow’s reigning champ American Sniper for the top spot at the B.O. with a three-day of $35M, the more interesting rivalry is the competition between too costly fanboy pics: Warner Bros./Village Roadshow’s $179M sci-fi Jupiter Ascending (in 3,150 venues) and Universal/Legendary’s $95M Seventh Son (in 2,873).  All of these weekend’s wide entries will be propped by 3D ticket prices, with Jupiter getting a boost from IMAX.

jupiter ascending posterDistrib analysts expect the Wachowski sibling directed Jupiter Ascending to overpower Seventh Son, $20M to $7-10M in weekend ticket sales.  They’ve even praised Warner Bros. for executing a solid marketing campaign that has increased awareness on a week-to-week basis with its action TV spots and its harlequin sci-fi book cover-like one sheets of stars Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis. While males over/under 25 were always the target for Jupiter, one rival distribution chief exclaimed, “Bravo for Warner Bros., they’ve been able to attract three quadrants along with young females which are very hard to draw into a sci-fi film.”

But the irony is that Seventh Son, which isn’t expected to wow stateside,  is arguably in a slightly better position financially than Jupiter which has tall odds against it due to its exorbitant budget and bad reviews at 37% rotten on the Tomatometer (Seventh Son has even registered on the site yet).  Even though Legendary will take a writedown on Seventh Son, it could come up with less bruises than Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow on Jupiter. A film of Jupiter‘s magnitude and budget requires a domestic opening of $65M-plus to stay alive, which will be challenging in the wake of American Sniper and before next weekend’s 50 Shades of Grey. Unlike Jupiter, seventh sonSeventh Son will not be completely defined by its U.S. gross.  Universal has already released the Jeff Bridges-Julianne Moore fantasy film abroad racking up $82M in 48 territories — $26M coming from China alone — with 15 countries left in its release schedule through March.  Legendary further mitigated the cost of the film through financing with China Film Group and could see a global take of $150M. Seventh Son opened No. 1 in 14 territories and was the highest Universal opening of all-time in Ukraine. Legendary’s deal with Seventh Son is similar to that of Blackhat: the film was already in production before Legendary signed with Universal, and the studio is releasing the title as part of its deal with the financier. Originally, Warner Bros. was set to release Seventh Son two years ago, Feb. 15, 2013, followed by three release date changes. The film was delayed by the bankruptcy of VFX house Rhythm & Hues, with Legendary forking over $4.9M to get the shots completed for an October 2013 release.

jupiter ascendingJupiter is opening day and date around the world except for Australia, China and Japan. The film’s saving grace could come in Russia this weekend and China on March 8, two countries which embraced the Wachowskis’ last $102M spectacle Cloud Atlas, where that film minted respectively in each country $17M and $28M, repping 45% of its $103M overseas haul.  Philosophically dense with myriad plotlines and characters, Cloud Atlas crashed at the domestic B.O. with $27M. Jupiter originally was scheduled to bow last year on July 18, but was moved to this weekend as the film required extra VFX work.

Sponge Out of Water marks the Nick character’s second outing on the big screen since his 2004 pre-Thanksgiving entry The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie which bowed to $32M (and finaled at $85.4M domestic). DreamWorks Animation’s $132M Penguins of Madagascar underperformed at the domestic B.O. last November as families opted not to shell out for a cartoon they could watch at home. Sponge Out of Water offers more than a regular at home viewing with the cartoon characters getting a CGI makeover (with a production cost of $74M) and intermingling in a live-action setting ala Roger Rabbit.  Already Sponge Out of Water has made $8M in five foreign territories with Brazil and Spain among the big countries this weekend.  SpongeBob’s foreign release through Sunday represents approximately 36% of its ultimate international footprint.

SpongeBob is opening up at a time just prior to school winter vacations ramping up.  While only 1% of those kids K-12 and colleges are out this Monday per Rentrak Theatrical, that figure will climb to 15% by next Friday. Last year during the first weekend of February, Warner Bros.’ The LEGO Movie posted a record bow for animated film in February with an amazing FSS of $69.1M.