Weekend Wrap-Up
No Great Flood to See Noah; Sabotage Drowns
By John Hamann
March 30, 2014

What is the flood equivalent of 'Winter is Coming'?

It is a weekend of okay results at the box office, but there is nothing really to see here, despite Noah opening, the second weekend of Divergent, expansions of The Grand Budapest Hotel and God’s Not Dead, and another Schwarzenegger effort. At least now I know I can stay home tonight and watch The Walking Dead finale.

Despite Glenn Beck being vehemently against Noah, it still opened right where it was expected to this weekend. The $125 million Paramount biblical epic, with its "tempest in a teacup" controversy, still managed to open decently this weekend, but its legs are going to be suspect. The story of the great flood had Russell Crowe hoping to complete his most recent comeback, and it got a decent start on Thursday night with $1.6 million. Thursday comparisons are very tough, as some films open at 10 p.m., some at midnight, or in the case of Noah, at 7:00 p.m., which allowed for at least two showings per theater that night. Considering the so-called controversy, I thought the $1.6 million was soft.

The full Friday number came in at $15.2 million, but once the Thursday number was removed, the true Friday box office figure for Noah was actually $13.6 million. This is a number that is truly neither good nor bad. Noah had a bigger Friday than my favorite religious movie, The Matrix, which had a first Friday of $9.4 million, but much smaller than 2012 ($23.4 million), or the old religious go-to, The Passion of the Christ ($22.9 million first Friday). What we did learn from the Friday gross was that audiences hate it as it received only a C Cinemascore (might as well say F), but we can never really be sure who the Cinemascore people asked, or if there was a motivation behind which audience members they asked. From my reading, it appears that faith-based moviegoers do not like Noah (how dare they!), and regular audiences were more allowing. The C Cinemascore has to be concerning for Paramount, as this one is going to need some legs, as I doubt the profits from Noah 2 are going to prop up the original (yes, I’m looking at you Divergent).

The Saturday number came in at $17.6 million, a solid number for a film like this. The question was whether faith-based moviegoers would flock to Noah on Sunday, like they did for The Passion of the Christ. The studio issued a weekend estimate of $44 million for Noah, right on par with where tracking was predicting it would fall. Noah had a weekend multiplier of 2.9, which indicates that on Sunday, faith-based filmgoers gave Noah the collective shrug, and stayed home and watched basketball and The Walking Dead. The opening for this one is unfortunately forgettable, neither really good or really bad. Compared to its production cost of $125 million, the opening has to be troubling for Paramount as the biblical epic will likely top out at $120 million domestic, which means it will need $200 million plus overseas to see a profit. While that is completely attainable (it has already earned $51 million overseas), I don’t see Noah launching a series of biblical Cecil B. DeMille religious epics. Massive amount of profits are not going to be there; therefore, studios will go back to focusing on superhero movies or bad remakes of better films. Exodus opens in December with Christian Bale as Moses, and 20th Century Fox is going to need to cut a better trailer than Paramount did for Noah.

The real winner this weekend may be Crowe, as he has worked hard to put his checkered, phone-throwing past behind him. Crowe, who has earned three Oscar nominations and a win for Gladiator, had it all seemingly go south for him due to an ugly temper. After being the toast of the town after appearing in The Insider, Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind over a three-year period, Crowe followed those hits up with Master & Commander, a $150 million epic that earned $94 million stateside, Cinderella Man, a $90 million piece of Oscar bait that earned $60 million domestically, and A Good Year, the $35 million flick that earned only $7 million in North America. During that period, there were numerous reports of fights, not to mention an incident where he threw a phone at a hotel employee in New York. The first iteration of the Crowe comeback was between 2007 and 2011, where he made 3:10 to Yuma and American Gangster, amongst a few others, before topping it off as Robin Hood, the $200 million feature that earned $105 million stateside. The latest comeback began with Crowe in Les Miserables and then Man of Steel, which brings us back to Noah. His next two films are from Crowe’s own Fear of God Films (not kidding) and are The Water Diviner, as Crowe goes back to his Australian roots, and Fathers and Daughters, where Aaron Paul is the lead.

Finishing second this weekend is Divergent, last weekend’s much-ballyhooed YA weekend winner. Last weekend, the supposed second coming of the Twilight series opened to $54.6 million, an okay start for The Next Big Franchise. This weekend, Divergent did what it was expected do. It earned $26.5 million, and fell 51%. Divergent now appears to be a $135-$150 million finisher on the domestic side, and should it find a similar total overseas, will show a small profit for Lionsgate, as this one cost $85 million to bring to the screen. Like Noah, this result is nothing to get excited about on the positive or negative side, as Divergent now has a running total of $95.2 million.

Third is Muppets Most Wanted, and after a subdued opening at $17 million, the Muppet film holds decently – but not spectacularly – this weekend. The Disney sequel earned another $11.4 million, off 33% compared to last weekend. The Muppets Most Wanted continues to play more like a film for adults than for kids, as the drop is higher than most kids’ releases that open in the same area, but is slightly better than an adult film usually does. At this point, Muppets Most Wanted looks like it will meet its $50 million budget stateside, but will have to rely on overseas results to maintain the franchise. So far, Kermit and friends have earned $33.2 million. Again, nothing much to see here.

Fourth is Mr. Peabody & Sherman, the animated Fox release that appears to have done well, but it still struggling against its budget. Mr. Peabody and Sherman earned another $9.5 million and dropped 20% compared to last weekend. The throwback cost $145 million to produce, and has earned $94.9 million stateside, and $102 million overseas, but simply isn’t enough after prints and marketing costs are factored in on a global basis.

Fifth is God’s Not Dead, as two faith-based targets finish in the top five. After debuting to $9.2 million last weekend, Freestyle Releasing expanded the count of this one from 780 to 1,178 venues. The result is a very good hold, as God’s Not Dead earned another $9.1 million this weekend. That's a decline of less than 2%. God's Not Dead has now earned $22 million, against a cost that was somewhere near eight bucks.

Sixth is The Grand Budapest Hotel, a film that will go down as one of the best platform releases ever. From Wes Anderson, and again starring his wonderfully odd troop of players, the movie got started four weekends ago when it was released to eight venues. At those venues, it earned an average of $202,792 per screen. It then expanded the next weekend to 66 screens, where the average was $55,000, and the weekend gross was $3.6 million. Fox Searchlight then expanded immediately again, this time out to 304 venues. There, it earned $6.8 million, and had an average of $22,329. That means that The Grand Budapest Hotel had earned $15.6 million before going wide, which it did this weekend. Out to 977 venues, it earned $8.8 million this weekend, giving it a venue average of $9,033, and an increase over last weekend of 30%. Budget data hasn’t been released, but with a domestic gross so far of $24.5 million, and a foreign take that has surpassed $33 million, this will be another very positive result for Anderson.

Arnold continues to struggle with the career reboot as Sabotage flops. The hard core, R-rated actioner didn’t work this weekend, as Sabotage earned only $5.3 million from 2,486 venues. Schwarzenegger need to put the gun down and find a film he fits into as a supporting player. He needs to gain some goodwill back, and these choices aren’t making that happen.

Eighth is Need for Speed, which earned only $4.3 million and fell 45%. It's a good thing this was released in China, as it has a domestic take of $37.8 million and an overseas gross at $130 million, all against a $66 million production budget. The $41.7 million it has earned in China is more than any other territory on the planet, including North America.

Ninth is 300: Rise of an Empire. The sequel crossed the $100 million mark this weekend, as it earned $4.3 million and dropped 49%. The $110 million Warner Bros. release has a domestic total of $101.1 million, and is approaching the $200 million mark overseas.

Finally in tenth is Non-Stop, Liam Neeson’s leggy actioner. Non-Stop earned another $4.1 million in its fifth weekend and declined 37%. This one was made for $50 million, and has now picked up $85.2 million domestically. Overseas, Non-Stop has crossed the $60 million mark.

Finishing outside of the top ten this weekend is Bad Words, the new film from Jason Bateman. The foul-mouthed spelling bee movie earned $2.6 million this weekend from 842 screens, giving it an average of $3,141. Lionsgate and Pantelion Films also opened Cesar Chavez this weekend, and it earned $3 million from 664 venues, giving it an average of $4,518.

Overall this weekend, despite a decent result, the box office could not keep up with last year. This year, the top 12 films took in $133.4 million. Last year, with the G.I. Joe sequel, a Tyler Perry film, and flop The Host, the top 12 took in $139.7 million. Next weekend things get interesting. Captain America: Winter Soldier opens, and after a foreign gross of $75.2 million this weekend, it will look to improve on the $65 million the original opened to back in 2011.