Paramount’s ‘Noah’ Rises to Top Box Office in Weekend Debut

Photographer: Niko Tavernise/Paramount Pictures via AP Photo

Jennifer Connelly, left, and Russell Crowe star in a scene from "Noah." Close

Jennifer Connelly, left, and Russell Crowe star in a scene from "Noah."

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Photographer: Niko Tavernise/Paramount Pictures via AP Photo

Jennifer Connelly, left, and Russell Crowe star in a scene from "Noah."

“Noah,” the biblical epic starring Russell Crowe, topped the box office in its debut this weekend, collecting $44 million for Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures.

“Noah” outsold “Divergent,” the returning movie from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (LGF) about teen warriors, which collected $26.5 million to place second in U.S. and Canadian theaters, Rentrak Corp. said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. The new film was projected to garner $41 million, the forecast of BoxOffice.com.

“Noah,” which cost $125 million to make, according to Box Office Mojo, follows the success of “Son of God,” a smaller, religious-themed production, which produced $25.6 million in its February debut. The new movie won points with critics for its visual effects, while receiving some criticism for the artistic license taken with the biblical story.

“I was asked if the film has been a success in spite of the controversy or due to the controversy,” said Don Harris, president of domestic distribution at Paramount. “But movies work commercially because the movies themselves work. This film works as an epic.”

He predicted a “very healthy number” for sales in the U.S. and Canada.

‘Incipient Panic’

Crowe has the leading role as the man chosen by God to undertake a rescue mission before an apocalyptic flood destroys the world. Anthony Hopkins stars as Noah’s grandfather Methuselah and Jennifer Connelly plays his wife. Ray Winstone and Emma Watson also are featured.

“‘Noah’ is less an epic than a horror movie,” wrote A.O. Scott in the New York Times. “There are some big, noisy battle scenes and some whiz-bang computer-generated images, but the dominant moods are claustrophobia and incipient panic.”

The film has garnered strong critical reviews, registering a 76 percent positive rating on review aggregator website Rottentomatoes.com.

The movie was directed by Darren Aronofsky, who helmed the 1998 science fiction thriller “Pi” and the 2010 drama “Black Swan.”

Of the $44 million weekend box office sales generated from 3,567 screens, $1.6 million came from Thursday night preview shows, according to Paramount.

Little Competition

Ahead of its domestic release, “Noah” earned $22 million from international sales, according to Box Office Mojo. So far the film has generated $51.1 million internationally, including its biggest opening weekend in Russia ever for Paramount, according to the studio.

The film faced little competition from new movies this weekend. “Sabotage,” an action thriller from Open Road Films, was the other title to open in wide release.

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, the movie follows members of an elite Drug Enforcement Administration task force who are taken down one by one after they rob a drug cartel safe house. It had a disappointing opening, taking in $5.3 million to place seventh. With a 22 percent rating on RottenTomatoes.com, it was projected to take in $7 million.

“Divergent,” the first film in a new young-adult franchise from Lions Gate, was projected to take $22.5 million in its second week after leading the box office on its debut. The movie has had sales of $95.3 million for the studio, which was also behind the “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” movies.

Revenue Drops

“Muppets Most Wanted,” another holdover and the follow-up to the 2011 film, collected $11.4 million to place third for Walt Disney Co.

“Cesar Chavez,” a biopic of the civil-rights activist and labor organizer, opened in limited release with $3 million in receipts and placed 12th for Lions Gate.

Separately, Disney and Rentrak said “Frozen” became the highest-grossing animated film ever with $1.07 billion in worldwide sales. The picture, which won two Academy Awards, is the studio’s seventh billion-dollar release.

Weekend revenue for the top 10 films fell 7.5 percent to $127.3 million from a year earlier, according to Rentrak. Domestic ticket sales year to date have increased 6.7 percent to $2.39 billion.

The following table has U.S. movie box-office figures provided by studios to Rentrak. The amounts are based on gross ticket sales for March 28 and March 29 and estimates for yesterday.

Rev. Pct. Avg./ Total Movie (mln) Chg. Theaters Theater (mln) Wks =============================================================== 1 NOAH $44.0 -- 3,567 $12,335 $44.0 1 2 DIVERGENT 26.5 -51 3,936 6,733 95.3 2 3 MUPPETS MOST WANTED 11.4 -33 3,194 3,561 33.2 2 4 MR PEABODY 9.5 -20 3,299 2,880 94.9 4 5 GOD’S NOT DEAD 9.1 -2 1,178 7,704 22.0 2 6 GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL 8.8 30 977 9,033 24.5 4 7 SABOTAGE 5.3 -- 2,486 2,144 5.3 1 8 NEED FOR SPEED 4.34 -45 2,705 1,603 37.8 3 9 300: RISE OF EMPIRE 4.3 -49 2,601 1,653 101.1 4 10 NON-STOP 4.1 -36 2,515 1,625 85.2 5

Top 10 Films Grosses:

This Week Year Ago Pct.

(mln) (mln) Chg. ===================================

$127.3 $137.6 -7.5

Year-to-date Revenue:

2014 2013

YTD YTD Pct.

(mln) (mln) Chg. ===================================

$2,389 $2,239 +6.7

Source: Rentrak Corp. (RENT)

To contact the reporter on this story: Anousha Sakoui in London at asakoui@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net; Ben Livesey at blivesey@bloomberg.net; Sylvia Wier, Joshua Fellman

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