Box Office: 'Non-Stop' Soars to $30 Million; 'Son of God' Graces No. 2 With $26.5 Million

8:42 AM PST 03/02/2014 by Pamela McClintock

UPDATED: Both films do strong business over Oscar weekend, while family blockbuster "The Lego Movie" crosses the $200 million mark in North America; a new R-rated version of "Anchorman 2" comes in No. 14 with a paltry $1.3 million.

Marking another major win for Liam Neeson's career as an elder action star, Non-Stop topped the North American box office with a $30 million debut.

Among Neeson's recent action-thrillers, that's the best showing outside of Taken 2, which opened to $49.5 million in 2012. Overseas, Non-Stop also did nicely, opening to $20 million from 21 markets for a $50 million global launch.

But it was Sony and MGM's RoboCop which came in No. 1 overseas, where it is faring far better than in North America. The sci-fi remake took in $30 million internationally for a total $136 million. Domestically, it has earned $51.2 million for a world total of $187.2 million.

Universal's Non-Stop is a needed win for Joel Silver's Silver Pictures, which produced the star-studded movie, whose highbrow ensemble cast includes Oscar supporting actress nominee Lupita Nyong'oJulianne Moore, Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery and House of Card's Corey Stoll.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, Non-Stop was all the more impressive for drawing younger moviegoers, with 35 percent of ticket buyers under the age of 25. Females made up 51 percent of the overall audience, which delivered the film an A- CinemaScore.

STORY: 2014 Is Jam-Packed With Bible-Based Movies

Non-Stop, starring Neeson as U.S. air marshal who gets into serious trouble on a transatlantic flight from New York to London, is the first Silver Pictures film released by Universal per its new deal with Silver, who previously had a longtime deal with Warner Bros.

"Liam has become an incredibly reliable star, and I'm very proud of the film" said Universal distribution chief Nikki Rocco

The weekend's other new offering, the Christian film Son of God, was also a winner. The 20th Century Fox release debuted to $26.5 million, the second-best opening for a Christian film after The Passion of the Christ, not accounting for inflation, according to Box Office Mojo. That also excludes the Chronicles of Narnia films.

Mark Burnett and Roma Downey's Son of God, chronicling the life of Jesus Christ and starring Diogo Morgado, is an unusual offering in that it was adapted from their hit television miniseries The Bible (deleted scenes from the miniseries were also featured).

"It started with Mark and Roma's grassroots marketing campaign. Their intent was to ignite the faith-based community, and it clearly worked," said Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson. "And our exit polls were extraordinarily high. This film will have very strong legs."

Also earning an A- CinemaScore, Son of God amassed more than $4 million in advance ticket sales, thanks to heavy interest from churches and religious organizations that set group outings and theater takeovers.

Top-grossing cities for the weekend included San Diego, Houston, Oklahoma City, Sacramento, Miami and Chicago. Hispanics made up 22 percent of the audience, a potent showing. And a Spanish-language version of the film made up 4 percent of the total gross, an unusually strong number, Aronson said. More than 200 prints were dubbed using well-known Spanish actors.

Females made up more than 60 percent of Son of God's audience, while 82 percent of ticket buyers were over the age of 25.

The film opens exactly a decade after Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ became an instant hit, opening to a massive $83.8 million on its way to earning $612 million worldwide. Son of God, lacking the controversy that Passion of the Christ sparked, wasn't expected to match those numbers.

Son of God is the first in a slew of biblical and faith-based films set for 2014. On March 28, Paramount debuts Darren Aronofsky's tentpole Noah. The studio will play a trailer of Noah before Son of God.

Also hoping to make a splash over the weekend was an R-rated, extended cut of Paramount's Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. The offering did a so-so $1.3 million to come in No. 14. All in, the sequel has earned $126.5 million domestically.

Elsewhere, Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures' The Lego Movie fell to No. 3 after ruling the domestic box office for three consecutive weekends, falling a slim 33 percent to $21 million and crossing the $200 million mark domestically (its total through Sunday is an estimated $209.3 million).

Internationally, Lego took in another $21 million, pushing its world cume to $330.4 million.

George Clooney's The Monuments Men remained strong, grossing $5 million to come in No. 4 and ending Sunday with a domestic total of $65.7 million.

Rounding out the top five was Kevin Costner's spy thriller 3 Days to Kill. Facing formidable competition from Non-Stop, the pic plunged 60 percent in its second weekend, grossing $4.9 million for a domestic total of $20.7 million. The movie is from Relativity Media and EuropaCorp.

RoboCop placed No. 6 domestically with $4.5 million, followed by Constantin Films' ill-fated $100 million epic Pompeii, which fell to No. 7 in its second weekend with $4.3 million for a disastrous domestic total of $17.7 million. Overseas, it also is struggling, grossing $16.4 million for an international total of $47.7 million and world cume of $65.4 million.

At the specialty box office, Indian film and 2013 Cannes Film Festival entry The Lunchbox enjoyed a solid debut for U.S. distributor Sony Pictures Classics, grossing $51,325 from three theaters for a location average of $17,108, the best of the weekend.

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