A rare fourth frame on top was not in the cards for The LEGO Movie. The animated hit fell to third place this weekend, surpassed by two radically different new titles. In first place, Non-Stop is the latest thriller to star Liam Neeson and was expected by most to have a strong showing over this Oscar weekend. What was not as expected was how close Son of God would come to shooting Non-Stop out of the sky.
|2.||Son of God||$26,500,000||$26.5|
|3.||The LEGO Movie||$21,015,000||$209.3|
|4.||The Monuments Men||$5,000,000||$65.6|
|5.||3 Days to Kill||$4,900,000||$20.7|
|9.||About Last Night||$3,400,000||$43.7|
Leading up to this weekend’s opening, few were sure where Son of God would land. Fox said it was expecting around $15 million, which would have been a big win for a glorified TV movie. Instead, Son of God brought in an estimated $26.5 million from 3,260 locations – topping the movie’s reported budget of $25 million. The only thing that would have been a bigger box office deal is if Son of God had managed to take first place over Non-Stop.
From the time that Taken became a surprise hit in 2009, Liam Neeson has become one of the screen’s most bankable action stars. Non-Stop will mark the actor’s seventh film to open above $20 million in the last five years – or his eighth if you count the $19.6 million of 2012’s The Grey. Non-Stop reunites the actor with Jaume Collet-Serra, his director on 2011’s Unknown. That film opened to $21.8 million, which marked the lower end of box office expectations for Non-Stop. The PG-13 thriller ended up pulling in $30 million from 3,090 locations, securing both a first place finish and the frame’s best per-theatre average despite the greater than expected pressure from Son of God.
It was no Passion of the Christ, but for a feature film recycled from a TV miniseries already seen by millions, Son of God looks like a runaway hit this morning. The film version of 2013’s The Bible includes some new footage, though not enough to make the project seem like an automatic box office winner when it was announced last fall. But if the success of films like Fireproof and Courageous has taught us anything these last few years, it is that Christian-themed movies can deliver outsized grosses when its audience is properly motivated.
That certainly seemed to be the case with Son of God. In the past few weeks, producers appealed to mega-church pastors to help boost the film’s opening, which helped Son of God earn an amazing $9.4 million on Friday – $1.2 million from Thursday pm screenings alone. That was more than the last explicitly biblical feature, The Nativity Story, brought in from its first three days back in 2006 (and more than the lifetime gross of last December’s Black Nativity). In terms of big Christian box office, of course, the record still belongs to Passion of the Christ. Ten years after its debut, Passion holds the title for both the biggest February opening ($83.8 million) and the most successful religious film of all time with $611.8 million in worldwide grosses. That is not far below the global totals of Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World, for the sake of comparison.
The success of both Non-Stop and Son of God spelled trouble for last weekend’s new releases. 3 Days to Kill and Pompeii were both down by over 58% in their sophomore frames, a decline that was especially hard on the latter. With its $100 million budget, Pompeii has yet to hit $20 million in the US or $50 million worldwide despite that 3D surcharge. The global news was much better for Frozen, which passed $1 billion in worldwide earnings this weekend. The Disney hit also marked an important milestone in the US, becoming the first film since Avatar to spend 14 consecutive weeks in the domestic top ten.
Overall, this weekend’s box office was up over last year when Jack and the Giant Slayer was on top with $27.2 million. 2014’s winning streak should come to an abrupt halt next weekend, however. Two new releases – Mr. Peabody & Sherman and 300: Rise of an Empire – will open nationwide, but their projected debuts combined aren’t expected to come close to the $79.1 million of 2013’s Oz: The Great and Powerful.