Acting on a coronavirus-era precedent set by its studio competitors, Paramount Pictures has decided to skip a theatrical release for The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Sponge on the Run. The CG-animated kids' film will now arrive on premium digital rental services and CBS All Access in early 2021, Variety confirmed this afternoon. It was most recently set for an August theatrical opening.
All episodes of the animated series will also be available to stream on the ViacomCBS-owned subscription platform.
"We are thrilled to have The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run, a premier, first-run movie from one of ViacomCBS' biggest brands, join CBS All Access' expanding slate of franchise content from across ViacomCBS,” Marc DeBevoise, chief digital officer at ViacomCBS and president and CEO of ViacomCBS Digital, said in a statement to Variety. "This launch will be perfectly timed with our continued expansion and planned rebranding of the service in early 2021, as we welcome SpongeBob and the gang from Bikini Bottom to the service in the biggest way possible."
"We're incredibly happy to give kids and families a much-deserved lift in any way we can, and the PVOD release of the new SpongeBob theatrical and putting all seasons of the TV series on CBS All Access are two of the best ways I can think of to get immersed in the optimism and joy that this terrific character represents," added Ramsey Naito, executive VP of Nickelodeon Animation Production and Development.
Written and directed by longtime SpongeBob vet Tim Hill, the film was originally supposed to open in theaters late last month. The shutdown caused by the pandemic made that impossible, and the project was shifted to late July before settling on an August 7 release.
The decision to forego a theatrical rollout altogether — especially for an animated/YA feature — has already been tested in the last few months by Universal (Trolls: World Tour), Warner Bros. (Scoob!) and Disney (Artemis Fowl). Theaters are hoping to reopen their doors next month, the hope being that blockbusters like Mulan (July 24) and Tenet (July 31) can kickstart an industry that's lain financially dormant for the last four months.
Sponge on the Run is the Nickelodeon series' third big screen adventure and kicks into high gear when SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) and Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) set out on a quest to find the former's missing pet snail, Gary (also voiced by Kenny). Awkwafina, Clancy Brown, Keanu Reeves, Rodger Bumpass, Bill Fagerbakke, Carolyn Lawrence, Douglas Lawrence, and Reggie Watts co-star.
Recently speaking with SYFY WIRE, Kenny confirmed that the film will tie into the upcoming spinoff show, Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years. In addition, the project marks the first movie in the franchise to be animated with 3D character models.
"It's a really nice blend of that old-school squash-and-stretch flat animation; Looney Tunes meets current CG look. So we're really excited about it. I think fans will really dig it," the actor told us.