By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood March 30, 2014 at 1:54PM
Darren Aronofsky's $125-million Bible epic "Noah" easily took #1 this weekend. The $44 million gross was solid but not sensational. With international territories performing even better, the picture appears on its way to modest profits.
The biggest opener this weekend worldwide was actually "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (Buena Vista), which amassed over $75 million in much of the world (but not yet China, Japan or Russia). This opens in the U.S. next week, and could take its toll on "Noah" and other current successes.
The weekend's Top 10 total was $127 million, down from $137 million last year, and thus the first one to fall short after a phenomenal streak of 17 weeks going back to before Thanksgiving. But that's because of the calendar -- last year, this was Easter weekend, with Friday a holiday. Saturday and Sunday this year actually were up from last year, so this seems more a fluke rather than suggesting a major turnaround. And with "Captain America" in the wings, April looks to start very strong.
1. "Noah" (Paramount) - Cinemascore: C; Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 68
$44,000,000 in 3,567 theaters; PSA (per screen average); $12,335,000; Cumulative: $44,000,000
A Saturday uptick provided positive news for Paramount (along with encouraging international tallies), suggesting that Darren Aronofsky's expensive Old testament epic (at $125 milliion, 3.5 times more than his previous highest budget) is holding its own so far. Coming off a not-always-reliable bad Cinemascore of C (the same as "The Wolf of Wall Street"), this upward trajectory comes with initially decent international returns ($51 million so far in 22 territories, ahead of the openings of both "Inception" and "Gravity").
This is uncharted territory for Aronofsky -- his previous best weekend in the U.S. was $8.9 million for "The Black Swan" (which had a slow, awards-oriented rollout; it ended up at $107 million domestic, $329 million worldwide at a fraction of the budget for "Noah"). There is no question that money is to be found with religious-themed stories, but the director doesn't have the close ties with core audiences that Mel Gibson did with "The Passion of the Christ." And the reviews were solid but not as spectacular as "The Wrestler" and "Requiem for a Dream." The opening, along with Saturday's increase, reveals strong initial interest in the film.
Paramount, relying on name directors of late, recently released films by Martin Scorsese and Alexander Payne, with Christopher Nolan ahead. The studio co-financed "Noah" with venerable Regency, which backed both "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and Oscar-winner "12 Years a Slave."
"Noah" marks a return to form for Russell Crowe as lead actor. This entry will exceed any previous non-adjusted opening weekend figure ("Robin Hood" was slightly less, though "Gladiator"'s adjusted opening gross would have been around $50 million).
What comes next: Next weekend (and the rest of the international openings) are crucial to determine whether this will turn out to be a success (it needs around $300 million worldwide to get there), but Paramount should be please with the results so far.
2. "Divergent" (Lionsgate) Week 2 - Last weekend #1
$26,500,000 (-51%) in 3,936 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $6,733; Cumulative: $92,560,000
This fell less than the second weekends of the two "Hunger Games" entries (both of which opened to much larger numbers, so their bigger fall was normal). This is a decent second weekend total, with the film looking to approach $150 million for its domestic take. International is rolling out more slowly (the first major wave doesn't start until next weekend). This appears so far to justify the Lionsgate/Summit franchise commitment (the second film, "Insurgent," starts shooting in May). The somewhat thrifty budget ($85 million) helps the cause.
What comes next: Though this is not soaring to "Twilight" or "Hunger Games" numbers, this came from novels with less fan support, making this response so far impressive.
3. "Muppets Most Wanted" (Buena Vista) Week 2 - Last weekend #2
11,373,000 (-33%) in 3,194 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $3,561; Cumulative: $33,210,000
Disney can claim a better second-weekend gross than franchise reboot "The Muppets" (which fell 62% post-Thanksgiving). Still, this is struggling, even with its lower $50-million initial cost. International is mainly still to come. Domestic should get to $60 million, which would be down a third from the last film.
What comes next: Disney likely hoped this would become a perennial again, but these spotty results so far suggest this isn't guaranteed.
4. "Mr. Peabody and Sherman" (Twentieth Century Fox) Week - Last weekend #3
$9,500,000 (-20%) in 3,299 theaters (-308); PSA: $2,880; Cumulative: $94,909,000
A strong hold this weekend indicates that this expensive DreamWorks Animation effort has some life left in it. The domestic take is outpacing by far "Turbo," their previous film, on which they took a small write-off at $282 million worldwide. The comparison is striking -- the 4th weekend of "Turbo" (which topped out at $82 million) was $2,351,000. This --with its hold and scattered weeks of spring vacation still ahead -- looks like it could approach $130 million. What is lagging though is international -- through last Thursday, this had taken in $102 million so far (including China, but not Japan, which won't open this until November). "Turbo" took in $200 million overseas, so this has a long way to go before equaling that film's haul.
What comes next: $145 million may be just too rich these days for this company to make money, particularly when the sequel possibilities are more limited than other potential projects.
5. "God's Not Dead (Freestyle) Week 2 - Last weekend #4
$9,075,000 (-1%) in 1,178 theaters (+398); PSA: $7,704; Cumulative: $22,028,000
This non-mainstream indie production soared in its second weekend, barely falling (helped by a 50%+ theater count increase) in gross and defying expectations that it would be a one-week wonder. It remains a mid-American success (no ads or reviews yet in most big city newspapers), but its PSA at many of its theaters places in among the top 2 or 3 grossing films at these complexes.
What comes next: With good word of mouth and more expansion still possible, this has a long way to go.
6. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (Fox Searchlight) Week 4 - Last weekend #7
$8,825,000 (+30%) in 977 theaters (+673); PSA: $9,033; Cumulative: $24,457,000
Wes Anderson's breakout success continues to expand, tripling its theater count while remaining very strong. It remains bigger than comparable initially limited films at the same point of the run ("The Descendants," Anderson's own "Moonrise Kingdom," "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" among others) with no sign of retreating anytime soon.
What comes next: This isn't at its highest point of release yet (with the additional marketing to widen its awareness). At this point, it remains clearly likely to pass $50 million easily, with $75 million not out of reach.
7. "Sabotage" (Open Road) NEW - Cinemascore: B; Criticwire: C-; Metacritic: 39
$5,330,000 in 2,486 theaters; PSA: $2,144; Cumulative: $5,330,000
The talent involved with this latest Arnold Schwarzenegger actioner is impressive - director David Ayer last did the acclaimed "End of Watch," co-writer/producer Skip Woods has hits "A Good Day to Die Hard," "The A-Team" and "X-Man Origins: Wolverine" among his credits, and the other producers include Joe Roth and Albert S. Ruddy. But none of them could trump the apparent disinterest in a film featuring little other than the promise of the aging Arnold. This is his third, and weakest, opening of his come-back lead roles (after "Escape Plan" - $9.9 million opening, "Last Stand" - $6.3).
This QED-funded production ("Elysium," "Alex Cross") came in at $35 million, and was distributed by the usually effective Open Road (the Regal Cinemas/AMC owned company). They previously had a success with "End of Watch" and most recently with "The Nut Job" their biggest gross $63 million so far.
What comes next: It appears the public has its own term limits for the ex-Governor, who may need to find a new hobby.
8. "Need for Speed" (Buena Vista) Week 3 - Last weekend #6
$4,335 (-45%) in 2,705 theaters (-410); PSA: $1,603; Cumulative: $37,753,000
This DreamWorks live-action film, handled by Disney domestically and some foreign territories, is lagging in the U.S.,, but has already taken in over $130 million in the rest of the world.
What comes next: At this level worldwide, a sequel seems inevitable.
9. "300: Rise of an Empire" (Warner Bros.) Week 4 - Last weekend #5
$4,300,000 (-49%) in 2,601 theaters (-484); PSA: $1,653; Cumulative: $101,145,000
The $200 million+ international gross remains the good news here. The domestic take, though now over $100 million, is way down from the first franchise entry. After the fourth weekend, it had taken in $179 million, and was took in $11.4 million.
What comes next: This could still end up overall strong enough for another effort, but it might be a close call with the $100 million+ budget involved.
10. "Non-Stop" (Universal) Week 5 - Last weekend #8
$4,100,000 (-%) in 2,515 theaters (-430); PSA: $1,625; Cumulative: $85,200,000
Still holding well, this latest Liam Neeson-to-the-rescue European production looks like it is heading toward a $175 million+ world wide take on a $50 million budget.
What comes next: This looks like franchise bait, if Neeson is willing (after already committed to further "Taken" entries).