‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ Commands $8.6 Million at Friday Box Office

Fox’s Ridley Scott-Christian Bale Bible epic will end “Hunger Games” reign and is on pace for $25 million opening

The Bible epic “Exodus: Gods and Kings” will bring down reigning box-office champ “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay” and win this weekend with a three-day opening of around $25 million. But it won’t match the March opening of the faith-based action saga “Noah” and isn’t going to lead the slumping box office out of the bull rushes.

“Exodus,” which is directed by Ridley Scott and stars Christian Bale as Moses, brought in $8.6 million from 3,505 theaters in its debut Friday. That easily outpaced Lionsgate’s young adult blockbuster, which has been No. 1 for the past three weekends, and DreamWorks Animation’s holdover “Penguins of Madagascar,” which took in $3.8 million and $1.5 million respectively.

Chris Rock’s R-rated comedy “Top Five” — the weekend’s other wide opener though it’s in just 979 theaters – brought in an estimated $2.4 million on its first day and should come in at around $7 million over the three days for Paramount.

The Friday haul for Twentieth Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment’s effects-laden Old Testament epic is a little over half the $15 million that Paramount’s similarly pricey “Noah” managed in March on its way to a $47 million debut. The production budget on “Exodus” is $140 million.

Holiday season openings tend to be lower however, and second and third weekends higher, so Fox is counting on “Exodus” to play strongly through the end of the year. But tough reviews (28 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes) and the soft “B-” CinemaScore it received Friday won’t help. That means it will need a big showing overseas, where it has taken in more than $32 million already.

Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kinglsey and Ben Mendelsohn co-star in the PG-13-rated “Exodus.”

It will be another down weekend at the multiplexes. This weekend is on pace to be way off from last year’s same date when “The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug” opened with $73 million, and it won’t reverse the downward spiral which has left the 2014 box office nearly five percent behind 2013.

Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice” is making a splash at the specialty box office in its debut. The Warner Bros. drama starring Joaquin Phoenix took in $128,000 from five theaters in its opening Friday and is heading for around $435,000 for the three days. That would be an impressive per-theater average of roughly $87,000.