LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A talking animated sponge knocked a Navy Seal sharpshooter from the top of the box office chart as The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water earned US$56 million (S$76 million) in ticket sales, deposing American Sniper after a three-week run at number 1.
The Oscar-nominated war film starring Bradley Cooper and directed by Clint Eastwood finished in second place with US$24.2 million at US and Canadian theaters for Friday through Sunday, according to studio estimates.
Another new release, the special effects-laden space saga Jupiter Ascending, took US$19 million to claim the No 3 spot.
SpongeBob, the second theatrical film based on the animated television series, follows the yellow sponge and his friends as they travel to the sea's surface to retrieve a secret recipe stolen by a pirate played by Antonio Banderas.
The film far exceeded industry forecasts for an opening of about US$35 million.
"The reviews were really excellent, including from some serious, tough critics," said Megan Colligan, president of worldwide distribution for Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc. which released the film.
The box office result was also driven by older teens who turned out in stronger numbers than might be expected for a family-friendly film, and by "cool adults who have embraced the character since they were kids and have never let him go", Colligan said.
The film, which cost US$74 million, has also taken in US$27 million internationally for a global total of US$83 million.
American Sniper, one of the biggest hits of the past year, has earned more than US$282 million at US and Canadian theatres since going into wide release on Jan 16. The film received six nominations for Hollywood's top honours, the Oscars, which will be handed out on Feb 22.
Jupiter Ascending stars Channing Tatum as a genetically engineered interplanetary hunter and Mila Kunis as a down-on-her-luck maid destined for greatness far beyond Earth.
The film, directed by siblings Andy and Lana Wachowski, cost a reported US$175 million and received weak reviews, with only 22 per cent of 152 critics on the aggregated site Rottentomatoes giving it a "fresh" rating.
Rounding out the top five, another ski-if film, Seventh Son starring Jiff Bridges and Jelling More, sold US$7.1 million in tickets, while the hit Paddington, based on the children's book, took US$5.4 million, bringing its total to US$57 million in just over three weeks.