By Daniel Garris
Paramount's Noah landed comfortably in first place this weekend with $43.72 million. The Darren Aronofsky directed biblical epic starring Russell Crowe exceeded its already lofty pre-release expectations. A strong marketing campaign, mostly good critical reviews and the recent resurgence in faith themed films all aided Noah this weekend. Noah may have also received a bit of a boost from moviegoers who wanted to catch the film before Disney's Captain America: The Winter Soldier enters the marketplace this coming Friday. Without adjusting for ticket price inflation, Noah delivered the 14th largest opening weekend performance ever for the month of March. Compared to other recent films, Noah opened just below the $45.04 million debut of 300: Rise of an Empire (despite not having the advantage of higher priced 3D tickets that Rise of an Empire had) and 71 percent stronger than the $25.60 million start of Son of God.
Noah opened with $15.18 million on Friday (which included an estimated $1.6 million from late night shows on Thursday), increased 16 percent on Saturday to take in $17.60 million and declined by 38 percent on Sunday to take in $10.93 million. That placed the film's opening weekend to Friday ratio at a very solid 2.88 to 1. The audience breakdown for the film was evenly split between female and male moviegoers and skewed heavily towards moviegoers 25 and over (74 percent). Noah received a lackluster C rating on CinemaScore, which signals that the film is dividing audiences and could point towards potential front-loading.
Lionsgate's Divergent fell one spot to place in second with $25.62 million. The young adult adaptation starring Shailene Woodley was down 53 percent from last weekend, which represents a relatively strong second weekend hold for a young adult adaptation. In comparison, 2008's Twilight fell 62 percent in its second weekend to gross $26.34 million, while last year's Ender's Game fell 62 percent to gross $10.26 million. Divergent has grossed a healthy $94.38 million through ten days of release. That places the film 21 percent behind the $119.71 million ten-day start of Twilight and 114 percent ahead of the $44.01 million ten-day take of Ender's Game. This weekend's hold strongly suggests that Divergent is helping greatly expand the already existing fanbase for the Divergent property as a whole.
Family fare occupied third and fourth places this weekend, as Disney's Muppets Most Wanted took third with $11.28 million and Fox's Mr. Peabody & Sherman claimed fourth with $9.07 million. Muppets Most Wanted was down a very solid 34 percent from last weekend's debut, while Mr. Peabody & Sherman re-stabilized very nicely this weekend by declining just 23 percent. Respective total grosses stand at a respectable $94.48 million for Mr. Peabody & Sherman in 24 days and at a softer than expected $33.12 million for Muppets Most Wanted in ten days. Clearly, Muppets Most Wanted has taken a hit from arriving so soon after Mr. Peabody & Sherman (as well as after Warner's The LEGO Movie).
God's Not Dead held up very well upon expanding this weekend. The faith-based drama from Freestyle and Pure Flix placed in fifth with $8.798 million from 1,178 locations. That gave God's Not Dead a healthy per-location average of $7,468 for the frame and represented a very slim decline of 5 percent from last weekend. This weekend's hold was especially impressive given the added presence of Noah in the marketplace. God's Not Dead continues to exceed expectations with $21.75 million in ten days. That places the film 35 percent ahead of the $16.16 million ten-day take of 2011's Courageous.
Fox Searchlight's The Grand Budapest Hotel also performed well upon expanding into wider release this weekend. The Wes Anderson directed film placed in sixth with $8.54 million from 977 locations. That represented a 26 percent increase over last weekend and gave the film a per-location average of $8,741 for the frame. The Grand Budapest Hotel has grossed an impressive $24.17 million through 24 days of release. At this rate, it shouldn't be all that long before The Grand Budapest Hotel surpasses the $45.51 million final gross of 2012's Moonrise Kingdom.
The news was nowhere near as good for Open Road's Sabotage. The action film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger opened a bit below its already modest expectations with a seventh place start of just $5.27 million. Schwarzenegger simply hasn't been a draw at the box office since returning to the big screen last year. Sabotage only furthers the trend, as the film debuted under the respective $9.89 million and $6.28 million openings of last year's Escape Plan and The Last Stand. Sabotage did receive a solid B rating on CinemaScore, but that won't mean much going forward after this weekend's soft start.
In moderate release, neither Lionsgate's Cesar Chavez nor Focus' Bad Words lit up the box office this weekend. Pantelion Films release Cesar Chavez took in $2.86 million from 664 locations (for a respectable per-location average of $4,310). Bad Words only managed $2.56 million from 842 locations (for a so-so per-location average of $3,041) and has now grossed $3.48 million to date. Potential for both films was ultimately limited in part by the strong performance of Noah this weekend, while Bad Words has also suffered from taking a clear back seat to The Grand Budapest Hotel on the platform front.