Exceeding a $30 million opening weekend forecast, biblical epic "Noah" opened at number one with an estimated $44 million in U.S. sales. "It was a fantastic result," said Megan Colligan, Paramount's President of Domestic Marketing and Distribution. "I think the movie really surprises people and makes them want to talk about it."
The film certainly has had people talking. The controversy goes back as far as 2012, when a leaked script lead to a movie blogger blasting the film for depicting Noah as an "environmental wacko." When trailers and other marketing materials appeared, many wondered if the story of Noah would be portrayed as it appears in the Bible, the Qur'an, or neither.
Others questioned whether religious text is appropriate subject matter for secular films at all. Such discussion appears to have encouraged moviegoers to watch the film for themselves, as evidenced by its first place finish. Overseas, "Noah" has generated an estimated $95 million. The film cost about $130 million to make.
Darren Aronofsky ("Requiem for a Dream," "Black Swan") directed the Paramount Pictures film which stars Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, and Nick Nolte. Second place this weekend was YA novel-turned-sci-fi action film, "Divergent," at $26.5 million, and Disney's "Muppets Most Wanted" finished third with a disappointing $11.3 million.
Delivering a bigger surprise was "God's Not Dead," which finished fifth at the box office for the second week in a row, bringing in $9.5 million this weekend. The faith-based film is about a college student defending his beliefs against a professor, and features Kevin Sorbo, Dean Cain, the popular Christian rock group Newsboys, and Willie and Korie Robertson from A&E's "Duck Dynasty."
Arnold Schwarzenegger's new crime thriller "Sabotage" finished seventh with $5.3 million in its opening weekend. The picture, which cost about $35 million to make, has received negative reviews from critics and could become Schwarzenegger's lowest-grossing movie in more than two decades.