Despite controversy on a few fronts, Paramount's Noah managed to over-perform and battle its way to a strong opening weekend. Fellow new release Sabotage couldn't break the top five and gave lead Arnold Schwarzenegger his third consecutive flop.
Paramount (a subsidiary of Viacom (NASDAQ: VIA))
Finish: 1st place / Est. budget: $130 million / 3-day estimated total: $45 million
Estimated to make around $35 million, Paramount's Noah will likely end the weekend with anywhere between $41 million and $46 million with most estimates putting it on the higher side. The extra influx is being credited to the same religious audiences that supported Son of God earlier this month. That group was expected to sit this out, as Noah is inspired by the Biblical story of Noah and not fully true to the sacred text. It looks like some of those viewers were curious about Darren Aronofsky's take on the tale and saw the film. That's a triumph for Paramount -- that type of audience rarely comes to religious-themed films unless they're by-the-book versions.
Paramount couldn't have afforded for Noah to sink; that would have been the studio's fourth straight bomb this year. The film is also performing well overseas and this weekend expanded into close to 20 additional markets. Altogether that will help offset the film's massive $100+ million budget.
Noah's opening also means the studio can breathe (a little) easier as it awaits its next release in June ... and it's a big one. Next up is the rebooted Transformers franchise with Mark Wahlberg (thankfully) taking over as the star. The studio will then release its second reboot of the summer with the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film in August, before handing the reins to a pair of sequels (Paranormal Activity 5, Hot Tub Time Machine 2) and the ever-talented Christopher Nolan (Interstellar). The rest of the year looks good for Paramount as executives hope to turn a corner.
Finish: 2nd place / Est. budget: $80 million / 3-day estimated total: $26.5 million/ Est. total: $95.9 million
The young adult genre got a nice boost last week from Divergent, which while falling from the top spot this week did command another $26 million over the last few days. That's a 52% slip, which isn't as steep as it sounds for a movie of this level. In total Divergent moves up to around $95 million and will cross the $100 million mark sometimes this week. It's worth mentioning the franchise was launched on a $80 million production budget so Lionsgate/Summit are now seeing profits. This franchise appears to be off and running.
Summit parent company Lionsgate has a busy April with two films slated, including Kevin Costner's anticipated NFL draft drama Draft Day and horror film The Quiet Ones featuring former Mad Men star Jared Harris. Neither film is expected to break the bank, but neither looks to have been made for a ton of money either. If both break even it would be a win. Both also have the potential to surprise -- Costner knows how to do sports films well, and while horror films have had a rough 2014, you never know when audiences may be up for a good scare.
Open Road (a joint venture of AMC (NYSE:AMC) and Regal Cinemas (NYSE: RGC))
Finish: 7th place / Est. budget: $35 million / 3-day estimated total: $5.2 million
Realistically this was expected. Arnold Schwarzenegger's film career has taken a major hit and this marks a hat trick of the wrong variety for the one-time big-action drawer. Sabotage joins The Last Stand and Escape Plan as movies greenlit mostly on Schwarzenegger's name that failed to live up to expectations. However, Schwarzenegger could still turn it around as three of his next projects are sequels to established films including The Expendables and The Terminator.
Nothing offsets a surprise hit more than a costly miss and Open Road started the year off so well. The studio's animated 3D caper The Nut Job became a solid hit in January and now stands as the studio's most profitable film of all time. Sabotage wasn't expected to be a big success, but executives must have expected it to make more than it did this weekend. It's not that the gritty actioner had a huge budget, but $35 million may as well be $100 million when your movie draws around $5 million in its opening frame.
Next up for Open Road is the sequel to surprise hit A Haunted House, which will look to have the same success as the original comedy did last year. Given that nobody thought House had a shot to be profitable in the first place, all bets are off on the follow-up.