Box-Office Preview: 'Exodus' Isn't Likely to Match 'Noah's' Debut

Kerry Brown/20th Century Fox

Instead, Ridley Scott's biblical epic hopes for a strong multiple over the year-end holidays; Chris Rock's comedy 'Top Five' also opens

Starring Christian Bale as Moses, Exodus: Gods and Kings opens this weekend at the North American box office, where prerelease tracking suggests the biblical epic may open in the $25 million to $30 million range, behind the $43.7 million debut of fellow biblical epic Noah earlier this year.

The big difference? Movies launching on the eve of the year-end holidays can enjoy unusually strong multiples, meaning director Ridley Scott's Exodus, if it holds well, could end up considerably ahead of the lifetime domestic gross of Noah ($101.2 million).

Read more Global Box Office: 'Exodus: Gods and Kings' Delivers $23 Million in Early Foreign Launch

From 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment, Exodus will have no trouble claiming the North American crown as it topples holder The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 from the top perch (Mockingjay has ruled for three consecutive weekends).

The only other new nationwide offering is Chris Rock's indie comedy Top Five, which is eyeing a $6 million to $8 million debut. Paramount acquired U.S. rights to the critically acclaimed indie film out of the Toronto Film Festival for $12 million, plus a $20 million marketing commitment, after a heated bidding war.

Top Five presently sports a 90 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to 40 percent for Exodus, which cost $140 million to make after tax breaks.

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Going after both mainstream and faith-based audiences, Exodus also stars Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley and Ben Mendelsohn. The action-adventure, chronicling Moses' epic battle to lead 400,000 Jewish slaves out of Egypt, is rated PG-13.

Exodus, thanks to its spectacle, hopes to be a big player overseas, where it debuted last weekend in its first 10 markets, earning $23 million.

Top Five, directed and written by Rock, has awards ambitions, although it was shut out of Thursday's Golden Globe nominations. It did, however, win best comedy at the Hollywood Film Awards, as well as the National Board of Review's Spotlight Award.

The movie's cast is a who's who of well-known comedians, including Tracy Morgan and Kevin Hart, as well as cameos by Jerry Seinfeld and Whoopi Goldberg. Rock, who plays a comedian and former star of a popcorn Hollywood film franchise trying to be taken more seriously by directing a slave drama, stars opposite Rosario Dawson, who plays a journalist. Gabrielle Union, Cedric the Entertainer and JB Smoove also star.

At the specialty box office, a number of holdover films hope to parlay Golden Globe noms for best picture into box-office love, including The Imitation Game, which makes its first expansion into markets outside of Los Angeles and New York, Foxcatcher, The Theory of Everything and Birdman, although Birdman has been in theaters since October.

And Inherent Vice, for which Joaquin Phoenix earned a Golden Globe nom for actor in a musical or comedy, debuts in New York and Los Angeles this weekend.