A storm of controversy didn’t keep Noah from taking first place at this weekend’s box office. The biblical disaster tale took in an estimated $44 million from 3,567 locations to give Russell Crowe the best openings of his career. Fellow newcomer Sabotage was drowned in Noah’s wake, giving Arnold Schwarzenegger one of the worst openings of his career.
|3.||Muppets Most Wanted||$11,373,000||$33.3|
|4.||Mr. Peabody & Sherman||$9,500,000||$94.9|
|5.||God’s Not Dead||$9,075,000||$22|
|6.||The Grand Budapest Hotel||$8,875,000||$24.4|
|8.||Need for Speed||$4,335,000||$37.7|
|9.||300: Rise of an Empire||$4,300,000||$101.1|
Full story after the jump
It’s not always easy to make box office results seem interesting. The amount of data that is available prior to a film’s release (online ticket sales, reviews, test screenings) makes it hard to pull off a real surprise by the time it hits theatres. Last weekend’s Divergent is a good example: the film was projected to come in around $55 million and that’s exactly where it did come in. Not much fun there. Then there are those releases that, for one reason or another, arrive in theatres with controversy in tow – maybe it went over budget, like World War Z, or went through multiple endings and edits… like World War Z. These films are inherently more interesting to box office analysts, because there is always the chance that they will succeed or fail in spectacular fashion.
In the case of World War Z, pre-release controversy did, in fact, result in a surprising first weekend at the box office. But for this weekend’s Noah, not so much. In case you missed the coverage of director Darren Aronofsky’s biblical epic, here are just some of the ‘controversial’ angles that were discussed: the production went over budget, test screenings offended Christian audiences and/or bored non-Christian audiences, studio and director clashed over multiple cuts of the film, etc. All that coverage made Noah one of the most eagerly-anticipated releases of 2014, mainly because people were eager to see how it would weather the storm. Most analysts expected Noah to open in the $40 million range, so forgive me for being a little disappointed that that’s exactly where it did end up.
Naturally, Paramount sees this Noah opening in a very different light. The studio had been careful to play down ‘epic’ expectations by announcing their own projection of about $35 million. By this measure, the studio can claim victory this morning: Noah avoided disaster and even gave Russell Crowe his biggest opening weekend ever (American Gangster was his former high, with $43.5 million). Still, the long-term prospects for the film are still very much in doubt. Reviews for Noah have been decent (76% on Rotten Tomatoes), but the film’s ‘C’ CinemaScore from audiences is more troubling. With Captain America: The Winter Soldier waiting in the wings, Noah may have trouble keeping its head above water in the weeks to come. On the plus side, the film faces friendlier waters overseas, and has already brought in over $30 million from its initial international territories.
As an interesting counterpoint to the solid if unspectacular debut of Noah, God’s Not Dead had an incredible sophomore frame. After pulling off one of those coveted box office surprises with its $9.2 million debut last weekend, the indie Christian feature took in another $9 million this weekend – a drop of just 1.5%. Because it expanded its run from 780 locations to 1,178, the per screen average for God’s Not Dead was actually down in its second frame, but that hardly matters. The editorial takeaway will still be that Christian movies ruled the domestic box office this weekend.
Sadly, box office analysts were not surprised by the performance of this weekend’s second new release: Sabotage. Following his return to the big screen, Arnold Schwarzenegger has delivered a string of flops that make Nicolas Cage look like a box office superstar. There was last January’s The Last Stand ($6.2 million opening; $12 million total), followed by Escape Plan ($9.8 million; $25.1 million total) in August. With an estimated $5.3 million from 2,486 locations, Sabotage is Arnold’s worst debut yet. In fact, it comes in lower than any Schwarzenegger movie since Red Sonja, which opened to $2.2 million (or $5 million, adjusted for inflation) in 1985.
Overall, this weekend’s box office was down only slightly from last year, when G.I. Joe: Retaliation opened with just over $40 million (makes that Noah debut seem a little sturdier, doesn’t it?) Of course, next weekend should obliterate 2013’s total, thanks to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The return of The First Avenger is expected to bring in close to $95 million, which will easily claim the record for an April release.