‘Noah’ Dunks ‘Divergent’ With $15 Million Friday at Box Office

'Noah' Dunks 'Divergent' With $15 Million Friday at Box Office

Biblical epic on pace for $40 million weekend; “Sabotage” will be 3rd straight flop for Arnold Schwarzenegger

“Noah” was headed for high ground at the box office Saturday, after a $15.2 million first-day Friday put Darren Aronofsky‘s controversial big-screen retelling of the Old Testament tale on pace for a $40 million weekend.

Paramount and New Regency's effects-laden $125 million Biblical epic, which stars Russell Crowe as the ark builder, has been the center of a buzz storm for months. The “Black Swan” director and studio were at odds as Christian groups complained that “Noah” didn't follow Scripture closely enough, and studio added a statement at the beginning of the film noting that the movie was a dramatic interpretation.

All that's translating to box-office heat however, and the PG-13-rated “Noah” will top projections that were in the $35 million range and knock the young-adult sci-fi saga “Divergent” out of the No. 1 spot.

Also read: ‘Noah’ Reviews: Is Darren Aronofsky's Biblical Vision Divine or Dumb?

As expected, “Noah” played to an older crowd, with 74 percent of the audience over the age of 25, and the gender split was 50-50. They were all over the map in terms of a CinemaScore, not surprising given how polarizing it's been. The overall score was a “C,” but 63 percent gave it an “A” or “B,” 23 percent gave it a “C” and 14 percent gave it a “D” or “F.”

The critics have been positive (76 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) on the saga, which co-stars Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson and Anthony Hopkins.

Lionsgate's Shailene Woodley-Theo James adventure tale was second with $8.2 million Friday, a 54 percent fall from last week's opening day. That puts “Divergent,” which is still in a market-high 3,936 theaters, on pace for a second weekend in the $25 million range that would raises its domestic total to $94 million.

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The weekend's other wide opener, the Arnold Schwarzenegger drug bust thriller “Sabotage,” brought in just $1.8 million Friday. It's looking at a three-day total of around $5 million or $6 million for Open Road, which means a third straight flop for the former California governor since he returned to the big screen. The David Ayer-directed action film won't match the $9.2 million opening of “Escape Plan” and may not equal the $6.2 debut of “The Last Stand.”

“Cesar Chavez,”the biopic about the iconic labor leader from Pantelion Films and Participant Media, opened with just over $1 million from 664 theaters and could crack the top ten with $3 million for the weekend.

Three movies that have been scoring in limited release went wide and two stayed hot.

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Fox Searchlight added 673 theaters for Wes Anderson's R-rated ensemble comedy Grand Budapest Hotel” and it brought in $2.3 million from 977 sites. That's a 23 percent gain from last week and puts it on pace for an $8 million weekend, which would up its domestic take to $24 million after a month.

“God's Not Dead,” Freestyle Releasing's low-budget drama targeting the faith-based crowd, brought in $2.3 million Friday — a 35 percent drop — after expanding into 1 ,164 theaters for its second weekend and should also finish in the $8 million range. That would put it over $20 million in two weeks.

“Bad Words,” the dark, R-rated comedy about a guy crashing a kids spelling bee that was directed by and stars Jason Bateman, isn't going to make the top ten. It took in $779,000 after Focus Features added 755 theaters in its third week and will come in under $3 million for the weekend.

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The race for third was close between kids movies “The Muppets Most Wanted,” back for its second week, and DreamWorks Animation's “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” which is in its fourth.

Disney's “Muppets” sequel could hit $10 million for the weekend after taking in $2.6 million Friday, a 44 percent drop from last week. “Peabody” will be in the same range and will cross $100 million domestically some time this weekend, after a $2.2 million Friday that was off just 19 percent from last weekend.

Warner Bros.’ sword-and-sandals tale “300: Rise of an Empire” is about to cross the $100 million mark in its fourth week. It finished just behind Disney hot-car movie “Need For Speed” on Friday and just ahead of the Liam Neeson thriller “Non-Stop.” They'll all wind up at around $4 million for the weekend.