It will be Europe versus USin the children's market at the UK box office this weekend as French-UKco-production The Magic Roundabout takes on The SpongeBob SquarePantsMovie for the first weekend of the school half-term holiday.

Both titles are based on hittelevision shows adored by legions of pre-teens and stoner students and areevenly matched going into the weekend with approximately 425-430 sites bookedapiece.

Pathe Distribution releases MagicRoundabout which features the voices of Brit stalwarts Sir Ian McKellen andJim Broadbent alongside those of pop stars Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue.

This weekend marks the startof the February half-term school holiday (Feb 14-18), a key date in the UKcalendar. Generally considered the best holiday date in the UK year as winterconditions provide little else in terms of alternative entertainment the week,bookended by two weekends, commonly finishes amongst the top five highestgrossing weeks of the year in the territory.

The length of the holiday andweather conditions can provide plenty of room for success.

Last year, for example, 20th CenturyFox's Cheaper By The Dozen (£1.8m) and BVI's The Haunted Mansion (£1.68m)led the first weekend of the week with Warner Bros' Looney Tunes: Back InAction (£926,447) in support, but UK title Tooth appeared shut outin the cold with £209,049 for Redbus. However, the film added another £523,321between Monday and Thursday during the week and took £304,416 in its secondweekend, climbing 81% against the first weekend. Looney Tunes also madeup on the second weekend adding 57% week-on-week.

Other contenders this yearinclude Entertainment Film Distributor's Son Of The Mask which willrelease at approximately 320 sites and in a smaller scale release Warner Broswill put out approximately 160 dubbed prints of German animation Laura'sStar. Momentum Pictures' Racing Stripes will compete in its secondweekend following a record opening for the distributor last week.