Just as Ride Along was toppled by a big release after three weeks on top, so was The Lego Movie. After racking up to close $200 million, the kid flick was bested for the top slot by Liam Neeson's Non-Stop and the surprise hit Son of God, which came within an inch of leading the pack.
Universal (a subsidiary of Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA))
Finish: 1st place / Est. budget: $50 million / 3-day estimated total: $29 million
Liam Neeson does it again. The actor's fourth action film in six years proved to be just as successful as the others and rose to the top of the box office. Nobody had any doubt Neeson would draw and in fact Non-Stop beat expectations by anywhere from $5 million to $10 million. But it still had to contend with religious drama Son of God, which was a step behind it all weekend. Ultimately Non-Stop pulled in just a hair more and will win the week, but it was certainly closer than anybody predicted. Given the two film's vastly different subject matters, it's unlikely they cannibalized each other's business, but rather brought out a very specific demographic that led to the healthy box office this weekend.
Let's recap Universal's 2014 thus far: Lone Survivor ($122 million), Ride Along ($127 million), Endless Love ($33 million) and now Non-Stop, so yes, it's been a good two months. Now the studio will get a break before returning this summer with seven films, including a number of high-profile tent-poles. Non-Stop should continue to fly the friendly box office skies for another few weeks, but may not hold the top spot as Warner Brothers has its 300 sequel on the horizon and DreamWorks and Fox will also have big movies in the mix.
20th Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA)
Son of God
Finish: 2nd place / Est. budget: $20 million / 3-day estimated total: $26 million
This was impressive to say the least, as the religious drama had a very good weekend. Many expected the movie to do well, but not this well and it came very close to winning the week overall. Analysts first began to suspect Son of God could be a hit after it took in $1.2 million during its Thursday late-night showings. Never underestimate faith-based audiences as many are comprised of people who don't usually go to the movies expect in cases like this. The movie, from married super team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, was pulled together with clips from the duo's History Channel The Bible mini-series combined with new footage.
The move paid off and it doesn't just mean success for Fox -- it could also spell success for Paramount, which has Noah slated for release at the end of this month. Religious projects seem to be on the rise and that could be the industry's next big thing. Don't forget it was 10 years ago this week Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ premiered and earned $80+ million in its first weekend. While that can be seen as an outlier, it still resonated with audiences and so did Son, just to a smaller but equally impressive extent.
Fox isn't done yet as next week it'll work with DreamWorks to launch kid pic Mr. Peabody & Sherman and then keep the animation domination approach churning through April when Rio 2 flies into theaters. That will ultimately give way to its summer schedule, which has a number of big name movies ready for a strong box office run. Son of God is the studio's second release of the year and follows the modest hit Devil's Due on a slate that looks to just be getting started.