Box Office: 'Noah' Wins Over Faith-Based and Mainstream Audiences, Hits $44 Million

Darren Aronofsky's controversial biblical epic Noah has delivered salvation, opening to a stellar $44 million in North America from 3,562 theaters after winning over faith-based and mainstream moviegoers alike, despite the director's darker take on the story of Noah and his Ark.

Internationally, Noah absolutely dazzled as it landed in Russia, grossing $17 million and nabbing the best opening ever for a non-sequel. It is also the fourth-biggest opening of all time. Noah earned $33.6 million from 21 markets for the weekend, pushing the film's early international cume to $51 million and worldwide total to $95.1 million.

Overall, the biggest player overseas this weekend was Disney and Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which opened in 32 markets a week ahead of its April 4 domestic debut, grossing a mighty $75.2 million. That's nearly double the debut of Captain America: The First Avenger in the same suite of markets.

Rio 2 is likewise launching early overseas, including in Brazil, director Carlos Saldanha's home country. The 20th Century Fox sequel opened to $7.3 million in Brazil this weekend, the best launch ever for animated film, for an early international total of $29.7 million from only three markets.

In the U.S., Noah played to Aronofsky's fans and upscale moviegoers on the one hand, and on the other, to Christian audiences, particularly in southern states. Noah is also doing sizable business among Catholic Hispanics, and African-Americans. In general, the movie drew an equal number of females and males, while skewing older (54 percent of ticket buyers were over the age of 25).

The big question now for Noah is how well it holds, both domestically and overseas, in the face of The Winter Soldier. The Winter Soldier, enjoying exceptionally strong buzz, could approach or cross $90 million in its North American launch. It also opens in China and Russia next weekend, along with numerous other markets.

PHOTOS: 'Noah' NYC Premiere

Noah, starring Russell Crowe, cost $125 million-plus to make, and received generally strong reviews. The film, however, only drew a C CinemaScore, indicating it did polarize some audiences.

"The movie is very unusual and very unique, so the reactions were very passionate," said Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore, who noted that only 15 percent gave Noah a D or an F, dragging down the overall grade. Conversely, 65 percent gave it an A or a B.

In the U.S., Paramount went to great lengths to appease concerns among religious leaders and church organizations about the tone of the film. The studio agreed to tweak its marketing campaign in recent weeks to say that Noah -- which has a strong environmental component -- is inspired by the story of Noah and the Ark, versus being a literal retelling of the wrath-of-God story.

Noah also stars Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone, Logan Lerman and Douglas Booth.

Noah isn't taking the steam totally out of another Christian film in the marketplace, God's Not Dead, which debuted last weekend to $9.2 million. God's Not Dead grossed $9.1 million from 1,178 theaters this weekend to come in No. 5. Its domestic cume through Sunday is $22 million.

STORY: 'Noah Director' Opens Up on Battle to Woo Christians

Elsewhere, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's hopes of resurrecting his acting career suffered another major blow with Sabotage. The film, from Open Road and QED International, took in $5.3 million from 2,486 theaters, Schwarzenegger's worst opening in nearly three decades and the worst ever for a title opening in more than 2,000 theaters.

The Terminator debuted to $4 million from 1,112 theaters in 1984 on its way to launching a blockbuster franchise, while Red Sonja opened to $2.3 million from 1,091 locations in 1985. A year later, Raw Deal opened to $5.4 million from 1,733 locations.

Last year, Schwarzenegger's Escape Plan opened to $9.9 million before topping out at $25.1 million domestically. The Last Stand, also released in 2013, debuted to $6.3 million, and only earned $12.1 million.

Pantelion Films and Participant Media's biopic Cesar Chavez placed No. 12 as it opened in only 664 theaters, grossing $3 million. Diego Luna directed the movie, which stars Michael Pena as the famed civil-rights leader and labor organizer Cesar Chavez.

Among holdovers, Summit Entertainment's YA film adaptation Divergent enjoyed a respectable hold in its second weekend, falling 51 percent to $26.5 million and coming in No. 2. The movie crossed the $90 million mark to finish Sunday with a cume of $95.3 million.

Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel continued to shine as it expanded nationwide, grossing $8.8 million from 977 theaters and pushing its total cume to $24.5 million for Fox Searchlight. Overseas, it has taken in a strong $45.1 million to date.

And Warner Bros. and Legendary's sequel 300: Rise of an Empire jumped the $100 million mark domestically in its fourth weekend, finishing Sunday with grosses of $101.1 million.

At the specialty box office, Gareth Evans' Indonesian action film The Raid 2 commanded all the action, opening to $177,000 from seven theaters for a location average of $25,286 -- the best of the weekend. The movie looks to be a win for Sony Pictures Classics.

Here are the top 10 estimates for the weekend of March 28-30 at the domestic box office:

Title, Weeks in Release/Theater Count, Studio, Weekend Total, Percentage Drop, Cume

1. Noah, 1/3,567, Paramount/New Regency, $44 million.

2. Divergent, 2/3,936, Lionsgate/Summit, $26.5 million, -51.5%, $95.3 million.

3. Muppets Most Wanted, 1/3,194, Disney, $16.5 million, -33.1%, $33.2 million.

4. Mr. Peabody & Sherman, 4/3,299, Fox/DreamWorks Animation, $9.5 million, -19.7%, $94.9 million.

5. God's Not Dead, 1/1,178, Freestyle/Pure Flix $9.1 million, -1.5%, $22 million.

6. The Grand Budapest Hotel, 4/977, Fox Searchlight, $8.8 million, +30%, $24.5 million.

7. Sabotage, 1/2,486, Open Road/QED International, $5.3 million.

8. Need for Speed, 3/2,705, Disney/DreamWorks, $4.33 million, -45.4%, $37.8 million.

9. 300: Rise of an Empire, 4/2,601, Warner Bros./Legendary, $4.3 million, -49.4%, $101.1 million.

10. Non-Stop, 5/2,515, Universal, $4.1 million, -36.5%, $85.2 million.

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