‘Noah’ Rides Epic Wave to Top of Box Office!

Noah, the biblical epic starring Russell Crowe, sailed to the top at theaters this weekend, unseatingDivergent after just one week at No. 1 and clobbering Sabotage, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s third straight flop.

Noah cruised to $44 million, according to studio estimates from Rentrak.

Analysts expected $30 million from the film, the latest in a raft of faith-themed movies out this year. Son of God ($57.9 million) and God’s Not Dead ($22 million) eclipsed projections — and God’s Not Dead remains in the top five. Heaven Is for Real (April 16) and Exodus (Dec. 12) remain on tap.

Analysts say that Noah‘s audience expanded beyond the religious because directorDarren Aronofsky added plenty of Hollywood touches to give the $125 million picture the feel of a mainstream disaster flick.

“It certainly feels like the ‘biggest’ film of 2014,” says Tim Briody, analyst for Box Office Prophets.

But how long will it reign? Noah finds itself in rarefied air: a special-effects movie that pleases critics — but apparently not fans.

About three-fourths of reviewers gave the movie a thumbs-up, according to Rotten Tomatoes. But only 49% of moviegoers liked it, the site says. And the movie earned a C from pollsters CinemaScore, imperiling its long-run box-office prospects.

Ray Subers of Box Office Mojo says that the movie may have alienated Christian audiences anticipating the film would hew closer to the Bible and not the “unexpected fantasy elements in the movie.”

Still, Noah collected plenty enough to dethrone Divergent, which took second with $26.5 million. The best-seller adaptation has collected $95.3 million in 10 days, and two sequels are in the works.

Muppets Most Wanted claimed third with $11.4 million, followed by Mr. Peabody & Sherman with $9.5 million.

God’s Not Dead was fifth with $9.1 million, marking another Hollywood rarity: two Christian-themed films in the top five.

Sabotage, Schwarzenegger’s latest and the only other major newcomer of the weekend, claimed seventh place with $5.3 million, about $3 million below expectations. The film comes on the heels of two box-office disappointments last year:Escape Plan, which collected $25 million, and The Last Stand, which mustered only $12 million.

‘A Good Day To Die Hard’ Wins The Weekend Box Office With $25 Million!

As iconic action hero John McClane of the Die Hardfranchise would say — yippe-ki-yay.

After a touch-and-go start, Bruce Willis starrer A Good Day to Die Hard has pulled ahead of rivals Safe Haven and holdoverIdentity Thief to narrowly win Presidents Day weekend with a three-day gross of $25 million. The 20th Century Fox pic is now projected to earn $30 million for the full holiday weekend, pushing its five-day debut to $38.3 million (both Die Hard and Safe Havenopened on Valentine’s Day).

Melissa McCarthyJason Bateman’s R-rated comedy Identity Thief has plenty of reason to laugh in its second weekend. Declining a narrow 33 percent, the Universal pic came in No. 2 for the weekend with $23.4 million. Its projected Friday-Monday gross is $27.7 million for a domestic haul of $75 million through Monday.

Relativity Media’s Nicholas Sparks film adaptation Safe Haven remains a big winner as well, even at No. 3. Fueled by younger females, the romantic drama grossed $21.4 million for the three day weekend, and should earn $25 million for the four days.

Pairing Julianne Hough and Josh DuhamelSafe Haven wasn’t expected to open much past $25 million; now, it should finish Monday with $34 million in the bank. Safe Haven narrowly won Valentine’s Day and tied with Die Hard on Friday.

Die Hard had been widely expected to amass a five day gross in the $40 million to $45 million range.Dismal reviews likely are hurting the R-rated film since the franchise’s fan base is older and more influenced by a critic’s opinion. Those who are turning out gave the film a B+ CinemaScore.

Live Free or Die Hard, the previous installment in the series and rated PG-13, posted a five-day debut of $48.4 million when opening on the eve of the Fourth of July holiday in 2007.

In A Good Day to Die Hard, the iconic action hero John McClane travels to Moscow to rescue his son (Jai Courtney), a CIA operative who’s in some nasty trouble.

Fueled by younger female moviegoers, Relativity’s Safe Haven received even worse notices than Die Hard but is more review-proof. The romantic drama also drew a B+ CinemaScore.

Safe Haven is directed by Lasse Hallstrom and stars Julianne Hough as a young woman who returns to her hometown only to be gripped by a dark secret from her past, even as she falls for a stranger (Josh Duhamel).

Animated 3D family entry Escape From Planet Earth, opening on Friday, is holding steady at No. 4, grossing a solid $16.1 million for the three day weekend. From the Weinstein Co., the pic should post a four day opening gross of $21 million.

Escape From Planet Earth is the first theatrical feature from Rainmaker Entertainment. Its voice cast is led by Brendan FraserJessica AlbaRob Corddry and Sarah Jessica ParkerWilliamShatner plays the evil alien Shanker.

The holiday’s fourth new wide release, Beautiful Creatures has fared poorly. The movie, based on the popular YA book series, grossed $7.5 million for the three day weekend and is projected to post a five day opening of only $11.6 million, well less than expected.

From Alcon Entertainment and distributed by Warner Bros., Beautiful Creatures was bested by fellow YA film adaptation Warm Bodies, which took in $2.6 million for the three day weekend to come in No. 5 in its third frame and pushing its domestic cume to $50.2 million.

Directed and scripted by Richard LaGraveneseBeautiful Creatures is the latest film property to be based on a young-adult book series. Beautiful Creatures stars Alice Englert and AldenEhrenreich and is being distributed by Warner Bros. via its deal with Alcon. Jeremy Irons andViola Davis also star in the film based on the first book in the Caster Chronicles series by KamiGarcia and Margaret Stohl.

The movie revolves around Lena Duchannes (Englert), whose special powers have long kept her separated from others. Moving to a new town, she quickly captures the attention of Ethan Wate(Ehrenreich), but their budding relationship is threatened by an ancient battle between good and evil.

Below are estimates for the Feb. 15-17 weekend at the domestic box office. Full results for the four-day weekend will be posted tomorrow.

Title, Weeks in release/theater count, studio, three-day weekend total, cume (*denotes Oscar best picture nominee)

1. A Good Day to Die Hard, 1/3,553, Fox, $25 million, $33.2 million

2. Identity Thief, 1/3,141, Universal, $23.4 million, $70.7 million

3. Safe Haven, 1/3,223, Relativity, $21.4 million, $30.3 million

4. Escape From Planet Earth, 1/3,288, The Weinstein Co, $16.1 million

5. Warm Bodies, 3/2,897, Summit, $9 million, $50.2 million

6. Beautiful Creatures, 1/2,950, Warner Bros., $7.5 million, $10 million

7. Side Effects, 2/2,605, Open Road, $6.2 million, $19 million

8. *Silver Linings Playbook, 14/2,202, The Weinstein Co., $6.1 million, $98.5 million

9. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, 4/2,103, Paramount/MGM, $3.5 million, $49.8 million

10. *Zero Dark Thirty, 9/1,522, Sony/Annapurna, $3.1 million, $88 million

Best of 2012: Top 10 Movies

Wreck-It Ralph, Jennifer Lawrence, Hunger Games, Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables

This was a year of blockbusters. Really good ones, and really big ones. This list of our 10 top movies of the year could easily have been filled with only flicks that grossed more than $200 million. And to be sure, a few made the list (hi, Hulk).

There were great little movies, too, and ground-breaking animation and some big laughs. So we’re all buzzing about Wes Anderson, Hobbits, Jennifer Lawrence, wild beasts (in 3-D and otherwise) and Channing Tatum (his dance moves, his comic timing and his action chops).

Even beyond our 10 faves, there were plenty that were just so darn fun (Pitch Perfect), spooky (Sinister), moving (Brave) and teen angsty (Perks of Being a Wallflower). Heck, 2012 was so awesome that The Dark Knight Rises didn’t make the cut.

There can only be 10, so here are the movies that shot an arrow to our heart, made spies cool again and had us wishing we had a Bengal tiger BFF.

10. WRECK-IT RALPH

Tired of being Donkey Kong to Fix-It Felix Jr.’s Mario, Ralph (John C. Reilly) leaves his game and sets off on a retro arcade-style adventure. Hyped up and hilarious, the best animated film of the year also has a big 500-point peach-sized heart. Who knew Sarah Silverman would be so darn lovable as glitchy kart racer Vanellope von Schweetz?

9. THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

After a hard-to-get-into first act, a trip to Rivendell reminds us what we love about thePeter Jackson‘s vision of Middle-earth: Gollum! Gandalf the Grey! Spectacular orcs of all sizes! As Bilbo Baggins, Martin Freeman(Sherlock) wears hairy feet extremely well, and just wait until you see the fire-breathing first look at the dragon Smaug. Or the clash between two warring mountains. (You read that right.) By the end, all we wanted was to stay in our seats and watch Part 2.

8. 21 JUMP STREET

Channing Tatum had a good year, right? The sexiest man alive’s best outing, though, was being paired with Jonah Hill and the ’90s TV series that originally launched Johnny Depp‘s career. Funniest movie alive? Maybe this year.

7. MOONRISE KINGDOM

Wes Anderson‘s whimsical tale tells of a four-eyed shorty (Jared Gilman), his too tall gal (Kara Hayard) and their attempt to evade Scout troop master Edward Norton and plenty of other adults: Bruce WillisTilda Swinton and Bill Murray. As a sad sack policemen who can’t find two kids on island that’s only 6 miles wide, Willis delivers one of his most heartfelt performances. Love you so much, Moonrise Kingdom!

6. LES MISERABLES

A star-studded, sung-live lavish production ofVictor Hugo‘s already-filmed-60-times-before masterpiece. The live singing allows for tight shots on the performers, which opens up the musical genre like never before. Hugh Jackman shows incredible vocal range as the man who steals bread for his family and then is hunted for decades by baritone Russell Crowe. And anyone that doesn’t shed a tear over Anne Hathaway‘s rendition of “I Dreamed A Dream” is just out of sync. With your own heart.

5. LIFE OF PI

We heart Richard Parker. Ang Lee‘s 3-D extravaganza takes place (mostly) on a lifeboat and stars newcomer Suraj Sharmaas Pi and Parker, the hungry Bengal tiger he’s forced to live with while trying to survive a shipwreck. The 3-D is integral to the movie, not just a gimmick, and our proximity to a wild animal is key. A beautiful film about faith and spirituality. And tigers.

4. THE AVENGERS

A huge hit and a great flick. Two Iron Man‘s, a Thor, a Captain America and an Incredible Hulk all led to this: the third highest domestic box office ever, with $623 million. Writer/director Joss Whedon’s knack for clever dialogue and terrific ensemble chemistry put to epic use (Robert Downey Jr.‘s Iron Man vs. Chris Hemsworth‘s Thor) in a super-sized tale that fired on all cylinders.

3. THE HUNGER GAMES

In a year filled with post-apocalyptic everything, Games outdid them all with a dystopian world that pits teens against each other in a fight to the death. Jennifer Lawrence became an instant pop culture icon as Katniss Everdeen, and showed us there’s plenty of spirit, and love, and great fashion in even the darkest of futures.

2. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

We experience a Katrina-like Louisiana flood through the eyes of perceptive 6-year-old Hushpuppy (amazing debut by Quvenzhané Wallis). Her friends and family are beyond poor, sometimes living on a raft made of automobile parts. Yet what resonates isn’t class divide or politics. The story of a small community that looks out for each other gains emotional power with a unique outsider experience of modern America. Never a downer, alive with sequences that pack in joyous moment after joyous moment.

1. SKYFALL

The year’s best film reinvigorated a 50-year-old franchise, Dark Knight-style. Daniel Craigis at his best as a 007 who might be too old for all this spy stuff, and Judi Dench‘s M is definitely worth dying for. All that and a finale that did more than just give fans a proper origin story. After seeing all those villain hideouts over the years, including that of Javier Bardem‘s hypnotic Silva, it turns out that the most fiendish and creepy lair of them all belongs to James Bond.