‘SpongeBob’ Launches with Massive $56 Million Weekend

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UPDATE (Sunday, 4:15pm ET): SpongeBob launched in first place with a massive $56 million weekend (estimated) in the United States, which is equivalent to last November’s debut for Big Hero 6. While the film was primarily hand-drawn, like the TV series itself, Paramount promoted almost exclusively the film’s CG segments, leading audiences to believe that the film was something entirely different. It turns out that the best way to get audiences to watch hand-drawn animation is to trick them into thinking they’ll be watching CGI.

SpongeBob also grossed $16.2M internationally in its second foreign weekend. The international total is now $28.6 million. The first SpongeBob feature in 2004 grossed a modest $54.7M internationally, and this new entry will have no trouble surpassing that figure.

In fifth place, Paddington held its own at the U.S. box office, earning $5.4M in its fourth weekend and boosting its overall total to $57.3 million. The film has grossed $208 million worldwide, which outside a couple of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, makes it the highest-grossing non-Hollywood family film ever.

Thanks to continued strong performance overseas, Disney’s Big Hero 6 crossed the $500 million mark this week. The film’s global total is now $505.1 million.

PREVIOUSLY (Sunday, 12:30am ET): Everyone expected The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water to perform respectably this weekend, but no one thought it would have a $50-million-plus blockbuster opening, which looks like it might happen.

The original SpongeBob SquarePants Movie opened in 2004 with $32 million, and box office analysts anticipated the new Paul Tibbitt-directed follow-up would open in the $30-40 million range. But after an unexpectedly strong $14.3M launch on Friday, most box office sources are suggesting its three-day weekend total will reach over $50 million (final weekend total estimates will be released on Sunday afternoon). In the process, the film will unseat three-week champion American Sniper as the number one film in America.

Such an amount would place SpongeBob in elite box office territory, making it the second-best opening for an animated TV adaptation, after The Simpsons Movie. It would also be the second-best animated opening in February, following last year’s $69.1M LEGO Movie bow, which also happened on the same weekend. The most startling fact though comes from Gitesh Pandya of Box Office Guru, who tweeted:

SpongeBob’s launch makes an especially strong statement for Paramount, which counts the $75M-budgeted film as its first release under the new Paramount Animation banner. The strong launch is less surprising though after one takes into consideration how much effort went into promoting the movie. Paramount’s parent company, Viacom, which also owns Nickelodeon, took every opportunity to create awareness for the title, as reported by Deadline:

SpongeBob’s social media has been spurred by the Super Bowl with 8.2M [engagements] 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.

This 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.

Box office numbers will be updated on Sunday.


  • Anonymous

    And this film is mostly hand-drawn! Granted, they mainly advertised the CG..

    • Josh Moore

      While I should be a bit off that they would advertise mostly the CG/ live action parts to make it more marketable but at the same time I think it’s a great idea. I mean this trick will help realize the general public that you don’t need an animated film to be CG and you shouldn’t judge it as such. So it’s such a clever trap IMO.

      • http://inlibdingcolor.tumblr.com/ ILDC

        Now we just have to see if the movie has legs.

        • AmidAmidi

          With spring break coming up across most of America, the film should hold decently over the coming month.

      • L_Ron_Hoover

        If you think the studio execs were trying to be “clever”, you really overestimate them…Never give them that much credit. It was obviously not a “trick” to get people to see a 2D movie, it was a typical studio move to get people used to seeing 2D characters in CGI in case they make it into a series of CGI sequels. Based on this film’s success, you can probably count on that.

        Studio execs don’t care at all about the movie, it’s solely the money. Just wait, every beloved 2D characters will be CGI-rendered in another 10 years. We’re already there.

    • Googamp32

      So… They lied. I’m okay with that. I’d rather have a good movie that had deceitful advertising than a bad movie that had honest advertising.

  • Googamp32

    You see, Hollywood? Hand drawn films CAN be massive box-office successes!

    • Alex Dudley

      By tricking them into thinking it’s mostly a CG film.
      And, alternatively, base it off a currently running hit show!

  • starss

    As Goo said, this film is actually about 65-70% hand-drawn. The trailers “lie” by only focusing on the CGI superhero versions of the characters, which only appear during the last fourth of the movie! We spread awareness of that, and maybe then executives will start thinking over it!

    • Funkybat

      It’s kinda sad that this level of deception was necessary to get the box office numbers, but apparently Nick/Paramount felt so. I assumed the movie would be 30-40% hand-drawn at most.

  • Kirielson

    Kudos to Paramount.

  • Justin Dike

    When is Burger King or McDonald’s going to start selling Crabby Patties? Such an obvious tie in. C’mon. Do it for the kids.

    • http://inlibdingcolor.tumblr.com/ ILDC

      Have you seen the movie? If they only had Krabby Patties for a limited time, the world would go in ruins. Well, the fish world at least.

      • http://www.doodlesinanimation.blogspot.com Annie T.

        Although you have an excellent point, I say that it’s worth the risk.

  • Crystal

    Does this mean we can have more traditionally animated movies? Or more movies of animated shows (like that Phineas and Ferb movie that was supposed to happen)? Or more movies not heavy on celebrity voices and more with actual voice actors?

    I saw the movie! Loved it! It definitely says something that it seems like the CGI might have been needed to sell the movie, it definitely wanted to look more like The Smurfs or Alvin & the Chipmunks. The PLUS side of that is there’s a lot of cool visual stuff that the marketing didn’t spoil.

  • http://www.dudegurlz.com Kris Kail

    The Simpsons Movie was 100% hand drawn and advertised as such and didnt change any minds in the fight between 2D and CGI, and neither will this. This is a movie based on a hit tv show thats still Nickelodeon’s top dog in the ratings. The advertising focused on the CGI to show audiences that its something different from the tv show, it was an incentive to show that they were doing things with this movie they couldnt do on tv, which was unlike the first movie in that it looked just like the tv show.

    • Max C.

      I wouldn’t say it’s 100% hand drawn, as there was plenty of CG made to look like it fits with the hand-drawn environment.

  • Googamp32

    Rome didn’t fall in a day, people. We have to start somewhere.

  • http://tresportfolio.tumblr.com/ Tres Swygert

    To focus a bit on Paramount, this is a great start for their animation division. Sure, they banked on a familiar series to begin their animated feature film library, but a great start is best in this day and age. Especially with them flying solo, and without the help of DreamWorks.

    Having said all that, I do wonder if Paramount will ever try unique storytelling for feature films. They did with Rango (ILM) (great film btw), and to hear that they were willing to make the Spongebob film mostly hand drawn is another positive. It would spark curiosity if they would venture into more hand drawn feature films, and to see if they can rewrite animation history. I hope they do, though I feel in order for them to, the film would need to be (again) something familiar (like SpongeBob).

    I’m sure that if this film continues to do well in the box office, another sequel will be in store for SpongeBob. Only time will tell.

  • Josh Moore

    As for as I know, a Family Guy movie has been development for quite some time now (probably will be as long as the Simpsons Movie) and there was a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic theatrical movie that was greenlighted last year.

    As for as I know the creator of Gravity Falls did state that he might want to end the show with a movie. Although I might be asking too much but it would be nice to see a theatrical movie finale especially with the show’s backgrounds would look good in one.

  • Roberto González

    As much as I’m happy with Spongebob winning and I thought the movie was visually impressive both in the 2D and CGI parts and hilarious all through it, I’m still concerned about the fake advertising.

    My problem is not so much that they decided to show mainly the CGI part, I’m ok with that, if that’s the way to cheat people to see something in 2D, but mostly because 1) they kinda spoiled all the third act in the trailers and 2) the trailers included gags and scenes that were cut from the final film. I was annoyed about that. Granted, any of the cut scenes were needed for the plot, but I thought the Patrick-icecream scene was funnier as it was played in the trailers, showing the sexy girl before we realized he felt in love with the icecream, Slash making a cameo would have been interesting and the part with Squidward being trapped in the 6-pack rings after proclaiming he’s a God was pretty funny as well.

    That aside, I thought the movie combined all the cartoon glory of Bob Clampett/John Kricfalusi with some clever gags that reminded me of the best moments of The Simpsons movie, especially during the apocalyptic section. I also like how they can get away with so many good old cartoon violence (war sequences at the start were reminiscent of Second World Ward Cartoons) just by making it about a battle of food. The second act was super-cool and trippy on its own , and very funny, but it kinda felt out of place in terms of the story. The first and third acts were more related story-wise, Spongebob and Plankton didn’t really need to travel through time cause at the end they didn’t solve anything by doing that.

    I still prefer the 2004 movie cause it was also very nice visually and it was more engaging in terms of characters and story, but this was great too in the sense it wasn’t really a sequel but another kind of movie.

    I’m very happy of its success and I wish original animated feature projects could be as creative and not-preachy as this movie.

  • J.S

    Talking about hit tv shows and 2D movies, what happened to that Phineas and Ferb movie that was announced last year?

  • starss

    I’d love some quotes from anyone who walked out of the theater upon the realization that the trailers tricked them.

  • http://www.doodlesinanimation.blogspot.com Annie T.

    Whoa! I was expecting a decent opening for this film, but these numbers are just insane. Here’s to more mostly-2D films in theatres in the future!

  • Jeff

    They’re going to announce the sequel in 3, 2, 1…

  • Roberto Severino

    I haven’t seen the movie yet since I’ve been so busy but I’m very ecstatic by this news. It’s proof that hand drawn animation still has an audience out there. Good job to everyone who worked on this film! I was afraid that the live action stuff and 3D portions were going to take up much more of the movie than the 2D stuff.

  • http://www.geloyellow.com/ Gerard Lopez

    Dang it I’m excited to see this. It premieres on April in my country. Bummer.

  • Harrison

    “Paramount promoted almost exclusively the film’s CG segments, leading audiences to believe that the film was something entirely different”.

    Yeah, it lead us to believe it was actually going to be good. I’m not saying I hate hand-drawn, I actually love it more than CGI, but they played every good part in the trailers. Not to mention that whatever the story was implied in the trailers, you won’t find it in the actually movie. I seriously tried so hard to enjoy it, but I gave up an hour in. I just wanted a funny animated movie, but all I got was disappoint and the sensation of brain damage. I truly wish I could say more, but it would lead to spoilers. Bottom line: I didn’t enjoy it.

  • Funkybat

    Almost makes me wonder if the only way to get Disney to try 2D features again is to do a feature of a successful TV series. Finishing out Gravity Falls with an epic movie that ties up the mysteries and conspiracies of the series would be a guaranteed hit, given the show’s fanbase, and the fact that, unlike Spongebob, it is not a “just another day in (name of town)” type show, but rather a long, unwinding adventure/mystery. If you end Gravity Falls the series on a cliffhanger and THEN have a feature film 3-6 months later, people will turn out in droves.