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‘Spongebob’ movie dominating U.S. box office

LOS ANGELES — Paramount’s “The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” is dominating the U.S. box office, hitting $15.2 million Friday as it heads for an impressive $52 million opening weekend at 3,641 U.S. locations.

That’s nearly triple the take for Warner Bros.’ expensive “Jupiter Ascending,” which opened with $6.4 million Friday and will finish its first weekend at around $18 million from 3,181 theaters, according to Saturday estimates. Legendary’s action fantasy “Seventh Son” also opened weakly with $2.3 million Friday for a mild $6.5 million weekend for Universal.

Warner Bros.’ “American Sniper,” now in its fourth weekend of wide release, will finish the frame ahead of “Jupiter Ascending” with about $23 million following a $6.3 million Friday. Clint Eastwood’s Iraq war drama, which was released on Christmas, has now topped $264 million domestically — surpassing “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” as the third-highest 2014 grosser in the U.S., behind only “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

“Jupiter Ascending,” co-financed by Village Roadshow and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski, was originally slotted for a launch last summer but was delayed in order to complete the extensive special effects — a major part of the $175 million pricetag. Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum star in a complex saga of space travel and genetic engineering.

The soft launch for “Jupiter” did not surprise as forecasts earlier this week predicted an opening in the low $20 millions. By contrast, the “SpongeBob” results came in far above recent projections, which had pegged the family comedy for a $35 million launch.

Instead, “SpongeBob” will finish only 25% behind the impressive $69 million launch of Warner’s “The Lego Movie,” which opened on the same weekend last year.

“SpongeBob” scored well with reviewers, racking up a 74% fresh rating on the Rotten Tomatoes site. It achieved a “B” grade from Cinema Score; 50% of the audience was under 18 and gave the film an A- score.

The movie combines live action and animation, including the TV characters 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.

“Seventh Son,” starring Jeff Bridges, is performing respectably overseas with $82 million internationally, including $26 million in China — where China Film Group has invested in the film.

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