After weathering a sea of controversy, Noah arrived in first place at the weekend box office.
Paramount’s biblical epic starring Russell Crowe in the titular role opened with $US44 million ($A47.74 million), according to studio estimates on Sunday.
The imaginative take on the tale of Noah’s Ark from Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky led some religious groups to claim the story had been inaccurately portrayed and prompted Paramount to add a disclaimer to marketing materials noting that “artistic licence has been taken” in telling the story.
The polarising attention apparently paid-off for Noah, which sailed smoothly into 22 international markets, such as Russia and Australia, earning $US33.6 million abroad.
“It certainly feels like the film has really connected with both mainstream moviegoers who are looking for a really sophisticated film and those folks who really want to see a movie that honours their faith,” Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore said.
“It’s been a very interesting journey to get to this point, but it’s definitely a spectacular launch.”
Noah is the latest faith-centric film to appeal to audiences this year. Others include the independently released God’s Not Dead, which earned $US9 million in its second outing this weekend, and Son of God, whose domestic total now stands at $US57.9 million since opening last month.
“I think these biblical-themed movies are like the next frontier in Hollywood,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak.
“Hollywood hadn’t cracked the code on a biblical movie that would have mainstream appeal. Now, I think they’ve figured it out. We may see a flood – pun intended – coming down the pipeline. We already have Heaven is for Real and Exodus slated for later this year.”
Elsewhere at the box office, Lionsgate’s teen science-fiction thriller Divergent starring Shailene Woodley earned $US26.5 million in its second weekend, bringing its domestic total to $US95.3 million.
Muppets Most Wanted, the globe-trotting Muppet sequel from Disney featuring Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais, came in third place with $US11.4 million in its second weekend. The latest Muppet caper’s total domestic haul is now at $US33.2 million.
The weekend’s other major new release, Sabotage, flopped into seventh spot with $US5.3 million. The Open Road action flick starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Australian Sam Worthington is the latest failure for the former California governor, whose The Last Stand and Escape Plan were box-office duds last year.
Disney’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which opens in the US on Friday, dominated 32 international markets by capturing $US75.2 million. The sequel stars Chris Evans as the patriotic Marvel super-soldier.