Mar 29 2014, 11:02am CDT | by Forbes
Proving once again that perhaps there is no such thing as “bad publicity”, the controversial Noah earned a solid $15.24 million yesterday, counting $1.6m worth of Thursday night sneak sales. The relatively well-reviewed film has been beset by umbrage and the like, from whether or not Paramount would allow Aronofsky’s preferred cut to be released (they did), to the decision to add a “this isn’t a literal version of the Bible” disclaimer to the marketing to whether or not Russell Crowe got to meet the Pope. Oh, and the vast majority of critics outside of New York and LA didn’t get to see the film until Wednesday night at the earliest, which was arguably less about the film’s quality and more about holding back coverage of the film’s more fantastical elements and potentially unnerving third act turns.
But all of this “news” kept Noah in the spotlight, which meant audiences darn-well knew it was coming out. As I discussed last year with World War Z, if a film looks appealing to a ticket buyer, they won’t care about behind-the-scenes scuffles or whether or not the film has been condemned by pundits they wouldn’t otherwise listen to. We’ll eventually see what the specific demographics were over this weekend, but I’m guessing the vast majority of the ticket buyers just said “Oh, Russell Crowe stars in a film about Noah, that sounds interesting” and bought their ticket accordingly. Paramount stressed going into the weekend that they didn’t have the kind of group ticket sales that benefited Son of God a few weeks back, and it would seem that many of the very hardcore religious filmgoers that Paramount was both scared of and somewhat pitching to ended up seeing God’s Not Dead anyway (more on that below).
The good news is that, a “C” grade from Cinemascore aside (the film earned 63% As or Bs, 23% Cs, and 14% Ds or Fs), if the religiously-inclined who did sample the film this weekend give a thumbs up, we may see stronger legs as the rest of the uber-faithful check out the film in the coming weeks as we get closer to Easter. It played 50 female and 74% over 25 years old. The picture cost $125 million to produce, and it had already earned $21 million in Mexico and Korea going into its domestic debut. A probable $40-$45m debut weekend in the states would arguably lead to an over/under $125m domestic total, which means the film will probably be on the path to profitability after theatrical even if it plays overseas more like Hugo ($111m) than Life of Pi ($484m overseas). It will be interesting to see which markets do best, considering Paramount had the film converted to 3D for 65 international markets while going 2D in the rest.
The other major new release was Open Road Films’ Sabotage. The Arnold Schwarzenegger-led ensemble action picture earned just $1.83 million on its first day, which is among the worst wide release opening days in Schwarzenegger’s career. It should earn $5m for the weekend, or less than the $6.2m debut of The Last Stand back in January 2013. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but if this film, helmed by critic-fave David Ayers and filled with recognizable character actors, can’t at least crack $10m over its opening weekend, then I think it’s time for us to finally admit that Schwarzenegger’s days as a top-billed action star are done. He had a heck of a run and there is no shame in admitting that he is not a box office movie star anymore. The film cost $35m and may well recoup some of that overseas, but, barring a miracle, this one is sadly DOA.
Pantelion and Lionsgate debut the Michael Peña-starring biopic Cesar Chavez in 664 theaters and earned $1.02 million on its first day. The picture should end the weekend with around $3m for an okay $4,500 per-screen average. That’s not great, but the reviews were weak and the film felt more like homework than entertainment. It’s a little ironic/sad that longtime supporting player Michael Peña finally gets an out-and-out lead role only through a project that couldn’t possibly be fronted by a white guy. Still, the biopic of the famous union rights/civil rights activist is the kind of film we should all want more of, so I hope it finds something approaching legs in the next month. Also debuting in limited were Sony Classic’s The Raid 2 on seven screens and Trebecka Film’s Hide Your Smiling Faces, and I’ll update when numbers become available later. The latter opened on probably just a few screens and probably made around $10, but it’s pretty terrific so I wanted to mention it in the hopes that you watch it via VOD where it’s currently available.
In holdover news, Divergent earned $8.1 million in its second Friday, down around 64% from last Friday’s debut. Its total currently stands at $76.86m. The weekend should be around $25 million, or down about 53% from last weekend. That sounds steep, but it’s actually less than the 62% plunge for the first Twilight and the first Hunger Games respectively. Divergent now sits with $77m and should end the weekend with around $95m. 300: Rise of an Empire scored another $1.1m for Warner Bros., down 51% from last Friday and now with $98m domestic. It should cross $100m sometime today or tomorrow. The LEGO Movie earned another $0.7m, down just 28% from last Friday. The animated picture has earned $245.89m domestic as it climbs up the list of top-grossing animated features in America. It’s at 14, having just past Toy Story 2 ($245.8m) yesterday.
DreamWorks’ Mr. Peabody and Sherman earned another $2.2m, just 18% off of last Friday. The film should earn another $8.8m for the weekend (-20%) to be in spitting distance of $100m domestic after four weekends. Also holding up well is Walt Disney's Muppets Most Wanted. After its soft-ish $17 million debut, the film is on track to earn about $10m for the second weekend, down around 35% for the weekend. The film earned $2.63m today and should finish its second frame with $31m. That’s not terrific, but it means that the film should at least gross its $50m budget in America before seeking more fortune-and-glory overseas.
The real surprise in holdover news was the shocking hold for God’s Not Dead. The film earned a fine $9.1m last weekend, but is set to earn another $7.1m this weekend after adding 362 screens and earning $2.35m yesterday, down 16% from last Friday. The faith-based drama is not remotely the one-weekend-wonder that I was expecting, as it should end its tenth day with $21m. Long term projections are officially out the window, but it should pass $30m by the end of next weekend. It may end up within spitting distance of the $56m gross of Fox's Son of God. It ironically probably swooped up much of the hardcore religious viewership that Paramount was so concerned about in regards to Noah. But that Noah could snag a $40m+ weekend without said demo is arguably terrific news for Noah.
Need For Speed will earn around $4m for its third weekend for a $37m 17-day total, but it’s crushing it overseas making its domestic total all-but-irrelevant. Jason Bateman’s relatively amusing Bad Words expanded to $to 842 theaters and earned $750k for a probable $2m weekend and $3.2m cume. Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel (which I shamefully have not seen yet, my wife chose Bad Words) expanded to 977 screens and didn’t miss a beat. The Fox Searchlight release earned $2.38m for a probable $7m weekend. It should easily top $20m total by tomorrow. Non-Stop should end the weekend with around $85m while Stalingrad should crack $1m.
That’s it for today. Join us tomorrow for a look at the weekend totals and (presumably) a look at how well Captain America: The Winter Soldier performed in its first overseas weekend.
Source: Forbes Business
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