The question on everyone’s lips, “Who would win in a fight between Liam Neeson and Jesus?” has been settled. The country’s favorite action star KO’ed the iconic religious figure $30 million to $26.5 million at the box office this weekend. Non-Stop’s impressive opening haul exceeded the debuts of Neeson’s last two movies, Unknown (which bowed to $21.9 million in 2011) and 2011’s The Grey ($19.7 million). The airborne thriller is Universal’s third movie to open at No. 1 this year, after Lone Survivor and Ride Along. A few more women than men purchased tickets to the film (the audience breakdown was 51 percent female) and were mostly part of an older crowd (65 percent of attendees were over the age of 25). They generally liked what they saw, awarding Non-Stop an A- CinemaScore rating, which means the movie should hold well over the next few weeks. It will likely top out at around $80 million.
Son of God impressed with its second-place standing. The movie about the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth, a repurposing of The History Channel’s “The Bible” mini-series, far out-performed other recent religious films, including The Nativity Story (2006) and Kirk Cameron’s Fireproof (2008), which opened to $7.8 million and $6.8 million, respectively. Of course, it didn’t attain the fiscal heights of Mel Gibson’s blockbuster The Passion of The Christ – which earned $26 million on its first day – but, lacking that film’s controversy and star power, this was to be expected. Attendees were 62 percent female and 82 percent over the age of 25 and also awarded the move an A- CinemaScore grade. Such a favorable audience reaction portends continued steady, if not stellar, success, however, many pundits are unsure how well Son of God will hold through the rest of its theatrical run, as well as for how long that run will last.
As expected, The Lego Movie clocked in at No. 3. The awesomely successful animated hit raked in another $21 million and, on Saturday, became the first movie released in 2014 to cross the $200 million mark.
In fourth place, The Monuments Men continues to defy the critics and do great business. George Clooney’s labor of art love earned $5 million, which has boosted the movie’s overall cume to $65.7 million.
The two new releases that opened wide last weekend, 3 Days to Kill and Pompeii, both suffered steep drops their second weekend out of the gate. Kevin Costner-starrer Kill dropped 60 percent to gross $4.9 million, earning it the weekend’s No. 5 spot. Pompeii eased 58 percent to take in $4.3 million.
Smaller and specialty releases did their part to contribute to the weekend’s BO earnings as well. The Wind Rises fared the best, grossing $1.6 million from 496 locations, followed by the extended cut of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, which earned $1.34 million. Repentance, starring Forest Whitaker and Anthony Mackie, made $530,000 from 152 locations, while Russian 3D war film Stalingrad tallied out to $500,000, having screened in 308 theatres.
Finally, Oscar contenders, led by American Hustle, continued to draw audiences right up until the big telecast on Sunday night. Combined, the nine nominees for Best Picture earned around $7.4 million, with American Hustle raking in the largest haul with its $1.9 million weekend gross.