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Box office preview: It's 'American Sniper' against 'SpongeBob'

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Paramount Pictures

So it turns out that the guy that might bring down American Sniper is… SpongeBob SquarePants?

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Sponge Out of Water hits theaters this weekend, attracting a completely different audience than the Sniper one—but a potentially large and powerful one nonetheless: families. Paddington has proved a hit since its Jan. 16 opening, but SpongeBob is an undoubtedly stronger brand than the teddy bear, at least here in America, and that alone will inspire kids to beg their parents for a trip to the theater.

Jupiter Ascending and Seventh Son are also opening wide this weekend, but likely won’t earn the same numbers as SpongeBob due to poor reviews and the wealth of other, similar options available in theaters. But  they’ll probably both end up in the top five anyway, kicking out last week’s releases Project Almanac and Black and White. Here’s how it might play out:

1. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Sponge Out of Water  $30 million

Over 10 years ago, SpongeBob fans’ dreams came true when The SpongeBob Movie hit theaters. The animated film opened with $32 million, breaking even with its $30 million budget within the first weekend and demonstrating the power of the Nickelodeon-made sponge. But SpongeBob isn’t as big a figure as he was a decade ago, something that might prevent this one (opening in about 3,500 theaters) from making as much as its predecessor. Even if interest has waned though, there are still enough SpongeBob fanatics and young kids just now being exposed to the character that together will make for a large audience. No matter how much it makes though, it won’t be breaking even this time around: Sponge Out of Water‘s budget was an expensive $74 million.

2. American Sniper ​— $20 million

The surprise success American Sniper just spent four weeks as number one at the box office, but its reign will likely end this week thanks to SpongeBob‘s PG-rated appealThe Oscar-nominated war movie made $30.7 million last weekend, a 53 percent decline from the weekend before, but it’s not likely to experience as big of a decrease in sales this time around: The film lost viewers to the Super Bowl last Sunday but it won’t have anything as high-profile to compete with this weekend so might just experience somewhere around a 35 percent decrease.  

3. Jupiter Ascending  $17 million

The Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending, starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum and opening in about 3,150 theaters, doesn’t have stellar reviews, but it does have appeal thanks to a big marketing campaign that’s both alerted potential moviegoers to the action film’s existence and to its possibly awe-inspiring visual effects. The Wachowski siblings’ last collaboration, 2012’s Cloud Atlas, made a not-so-impressive $27.1 million domestically, which doesn’t foreshadow a particularly strong run for Jupiter Ascendingbut the space-set film might be neck-and-neck with box office king Sniper this weekend anyway thanks to initial buzz and to sci-fi fans who care more about spectacle than critical acclaim.

4. Seventh Son   $6 million

Seventh Son‘s cast is led by Julianne Moore and Jeff Bridges, two A-listers who theoretically should draw in plenty of moviegoers—but the cast is about the only thing the long-delayed fantasy film, opening in about 2,800 theaters, has going for it. It was initially set to open in February 2013… and then October 2013… and then January 2014… and so on, until it reached its final release date of Feb. 6, 2015. Delayed releases are one thing if the movie has good buzz, but Seventh Son doesn’t: Most reviews are negative, meaning that while it might earn a spot in the top five, it will be because of a lack of competitionnot necessarily because of its individual monetary (or critical) success. It also doesn’t help that it’s opening the same weekend as Jupiter Ascending, a film in a similar genre but with a lot more publicity, especially compared to Seventh Son‘s sparse marketing.

5. Paddington ​ $4.6 million

SpongeBob’s release is going to send Paddington lower down in the box office hierarchy, but the British film should still keep a spot in the top five thanks to its lasting word-of-mouth buzz and critical appeal. Plus, SpongeBob isn’t a guaranteed hit with all kids so the ones who aren’t into the yellow sponge will be wanting to see this (much cuter) bear in theaters. 

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