SpongeBob’s Absorbent at Box Office

SpongeBob took on Bob Parr (a.k.a. Mr. Incredible) and emerged victorious over the weekend. Though it narrowly lost the top spot to Buena Vista’s National Treasure, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie from Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies enjoyed a big opening, soaking up an estimated $33.5 million.

SpongeBob’s big-screen debut was buoyed by a built-in audience that followed the silly sea creature from his submerged pineapple digs at kid cable net Nickelodoen. The series’ popularity among college students helped it do well at Friday night screenings as well as rugrat-packed Saturday and Sunday matinees. And speaking of rugrats, SpongeBob topped another Nickelodeon property to claim the networks’ biggest cinematic bow to date. Rugrats first crawled into theaters in 1998 and opened to $27.3 million on its way to $100 million.

Another accomplishment for SpongeBob was dispelling the myth that 2D feature animation is dead. The mostly traditionally drawn, $30 million toon opened bigger than Sony’s much hyped, $170 million 3D holiday pic, The Polar Express. Though it may gain steam as Christmas approaches, the Tom Hanks vehicle has performed under studio expectations, slipping to fourth place in its second weekend with an estimated $15.2 million.

Edged out by SpongeBob, Disney/Pixar’s The Incredibles settles for a third-place finish with a more than healthy $26.7 million in its third week out. Director Brad Bird’s superhero spoof is flying high with a cumulative take of $178 million and should also benefit from upcoming holidays as kids get let out of school.

Putting 2D vs. 3D issues aside, the weekend proved a huge success for animation in general as three of the top five spots were claimed by toons. Even National Treasure, which pulled off a surprise win with around $35 million, features some digital magic from Asylum Effects, New Deal Studios and Realscan 3D. The actioner stars Nicholas Cage as a modern treasure hunter in a story that plays like Raiders of the Lost Ark meets The Da Vinci Code. The Universal sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, finishes out the list at No. 5 with just over $10 million in its second week.

Go behind the scenes with SpongeBob creator Steve Hillenburg as he discusses the making of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie in the December issue of Animation Magazine, now available.