By Daniel Garris
Fox's Exodus: Gods and Kings debuted in first place this weekend with $24.12 million. While the Ridley Scott directed epic starring Christian Bale did open on the low end of expectations, the film's opening weekend performance left a bit to be desired given the film's price tag and its high profile nature. Compared to recent high-profile biblical epics, Exodus: Gods and Kings debuted 45 percent below the $43.72 million start of Noah and 6 percent below the $25.60 million start of the far less expensive Son of God (neither of which had the advantage of higher priced 3D admissions). Given its December release date Exodus: Gods and Kings will likely hold up better going forward than both Noah and Son of God did. However, the film is also unlikely to display strong holding power given its lackluster critical reviews and the upcoming launch of Warner's highly anticipated The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies on Wednesday.
Exodus: Gods and Kings opened with $8.87 million on Friday (which included an estimated $1.2 million from late night Thursday shows), increased 4 percent on Saturday to take in $9.25 million and declined 35 percent on Sunday to gross $6.00 million. That placed the film's opening weekend to Friday ratio at 2.72 to 1, which isn't the most encouraging early sign. Exodus: Gods and Kings received an underwhelming B- rating on CinemaScore.
After leading the box office with relative ease for three consecutive weeks, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 fell to second this weekend with $12.69 million. The third installment of Lionsgate's blockbuster franchise was down a respectable 42 percent from last weekend. In comparison, last year's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire fell 48 percent in its fourth weekend to gross $13.67 million (though it should be noted that The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opened that weekend). The 24-day take for Mockingjay - Part 1 stands at $276.88 million. While Mockingjay - Part 1 is displaying slightly stronger holding power than Catching Fire, the film is still running 23 percent behind the massive $357.50 million 24-day gross of Catching Fire.
Paramount's Top Five debuted in fourth place with $6.89 million. The critically acclaimed comedy starring and directed by Chris Rock opened towards the lower end of expectations, though it should be reminded that the film's location count likely muted its potential a bit this weekend. Top Five opened in a modest 979 locations, which gave the film a promising per-location average of $7,043 for the frame. Top Five debuted 21.5 percent ahead of the $5.67 million start of the Chris Rock led I Think I Love My Wife back in 2007. Top Five will hope to see its strong critical reviews transfer into strong word of mouth going forward. Paramount will be expanding the film into additional locations over the next two weeks.
Top Five grossed $2.52 million on Friday, jumped 14 percent on Saturday to take in $2.88 million and fell 48 percent on Sunday to gross $1.50 million. That gave Top Five an opening weekend to Friday ratio of 2.74 to 1. The film's rating on CinemaScore will be released after the film expands into wider release.
Computer animated films Penguins of Madagascar and Big Hero 6 claimed third and fifth place respectively with weekend takes of $7.21 million and $6.06 million. Fox's Penguins of Madagascar was down 34 percent from last weekend, while Disney's Big Hero 6 was down a slim 25 percent. Both films likely got an extra boost this weekend from family audiences who wanted to catch either film before The Battle of the Five Armies, Fox's Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and Sony's Annie all enter the marketplace in the next week. Respective total grosses stand at a strong $185.24 million for Big Hero 6 in 38 days and at an underwhelming $58.75 million for Penguins of Madagascar in 19 days.
Turning towards the platform front, Fox Searchlight's Wild took in $1.53 million from 116 locations. That gave the critically acclaimed drama starring Reese Witherspoon a healthy per-location average of $13,198 for the frame. Wild has grossed a promising $2.40 million in 12 days of platform release.
The Weinstein Company's The Imitation Game continued its slow expansion with $850,262 from 25 locations. The awards season hopeful starring Benedict Cumberbatch generated a strong per-location average of $34,010 for the frame. The 17-day platform total for The Imitation Game stands at $1.97 million.
Elsewhere in platform release, Warner's Inherent Vice debuted with $328,184 from 5 locations in New York and Los Angeles. While that gave the Paul Thomas Anderson directed film a very solid per-location average of $65,637 this weekend, it also represented a much slower start out of the gate than the $736,311 5 location launch of 2012's The Master. Inherent Vice may still have more mainstream appeal as it expands than The Master did, but this weekend's start wasn't the most promising initial sign. Anticipation for Inherent Vice has likely been limited somewhat by the film's mixed critical reviews (especially by Anderson's lofty standards).