Meanwhile, Sabotage's debut was the worst for star Arnold Schwarzenegger in nearly three decades.
At the international box office, Captain America: The Winter Soldier got off to a strong start, while Frozen hit one of its biggest milestones yet.
Noah's $43.7 million debut ranks fourth so far this year behind 300: Rise of An Empire ($45 million). It's a significant improvement over star Russell Crowe's Robin Hood—in fact, it's the highest debut ever for Crowe in leading role. Noah has also already earned more than director Aronofsky's first four movies combined.
Months ago, word began circulating that Noah deviated significantly from the Old Testament story upon which it's based. This raised the question of whether or not Christian audiences would show up to see a "Hollywood" version of one of the most well-known stories ever.
One doesn't have to be a regular churchgoer to be aware of and have some interest in the story of Noah, though, and the action and disaster elements of the movie also helped broaden its appeal. The controversy probably didn't hurt, either: controversy creates conversation, which in turn raises awareness.
Noah's audience was split evenly between men and women, and skewed older (74 percent above 25 years of age). IMAX accounted for $6.2 million (14 percent), which suggests that moviegoers were interested in seeing this epic tale on the biggest screen possible.
Noah received a "C" CinemaScore, which is probably a result of Paramount keeping the stranger fantasy elements out of the marketing campaign. This doesn't necessarily mean the movie is going to fall off quickly: The Wolf of Wall Street is a recent example of a controversial movie that bombed with CinemaScore but held well. At this point, it's safe to say that Noah will earn at least $110 million total.
In its second weekend, Divergent fell 53 percent to $25.6 million. In comparison, The Hunger Games dropped 62 percent at the same point. The young-adult adaptation has now grossed $94.3 million.
Muppets Most Wanted eased 34 percent to $11.3 million. That's actually a better second weekend than 2011's The Muppets ($11.1 million), which opened quite a bit higher. So far, Muppets Most Wanted has stolen away with $33.1 million.
DreamWorks Animation's Mr. Peabody & Sherman dipped 23 percent to $9.1 million. To date, it has earned $94.5 million, and will pass $100 million next weekend.
Faith-based movie God's Not Dead added 398 theaters and was down five percent to $8.8 million. Through 10 days, the surprise hit has earned $21.8 million.
Expanding nationwide to 977 theaters, The Grand Budapest Hotel grossed $8.54 million. That's the highest weekend ever for director Wes Anderson, beating the nationwide expansion of The Royal Tenenbaums ($8.51 million). Budapest has already taken in $24.2 million, and will be adding more locations next weekend.
In seventh place, Sabotage tanked with $5.3 million. That's lower than last year's The Last Stand ($6.3 million)—in fact, it's the worst debut for an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie since Red Sonja in 1985. Add in last October's Escape Plan ($9.9 million, with help from Sylvester Stallone) and Schwarzenegger's return to leading man status has been embarrassing to say the least. At this point, it's pretty clear that moviegoers don't want to see "The Governator" in action movie mode anymore.
Playing at 664 locations, Cesar Chavez opened to $2.9 million this weekend. While that's a fine number, it does seem like this movie should have done a bit better: Chavez is a major figure in the Hispanic community, who make up 32 percent of frequent moviegoers in the U.S. The movie could receive a boost on Monday (Cesar Chavez Day), though it's still going to be a modest earner.
In its nationwide expansion, comedy Bad Words earned a weak $2.56 million. Moviegoers just don't seem interested in Jason Bateman's directorial debut, which will have a tough time reaching $10 million total.
At seven locations, The Raid 2 scored $165,292 this weekend. That translates to a solid $23,613 per-theater average. The Indonesian action sequel will expand nationwide over the next two or three weeks.
A week ahead of its U.S. debut, Captain America: The Winter Soldier opened to $75.2 million from 32 international markets. According to Disney, that represents 57 percent of the international marketplace. The movie is clearly pacing ahead of its predecessor, Captain America: The First Avenger, which wound up with $193.9 million total.
Top markets were South Korea ($10.9 million), the U.K. ($10.7 million), Mexico ($8.7 million), France ($6.4 million), Italy ($3.9 million) and Germany ($3.8 million). The Winter Soldier expands in to the U.S., Russia, Australia and China next weekend.
In 22 markets, Noah added $33.6 million this weekend. It opened to an incredible $17.2 million in Russia, which ranks fourth all-time (and first for a non-sequel). It also took first place in Australia with $4.3 million. One discouraging note: in its second weekend in South Korea, Noah plummeted 65 percent. The Darren Aronofsky Biblical epic has now earned $51.1 million, and is expanding in to the U.K., Germany, Brazil and Spain next weekend.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman grossed $17.8 million this weekend. That includes openings in China ($7.8 million) and Australia ($3.4 million). So far, the DreamWorks Animation movie has banked $123.1 million outside of the U.S.
Rio 2 opened to $7.3 million in Brazil, which is the highest start ever for an animated movie there. The Blue Sky Animation sequel has grossed $29.7 million overseas, and reaches the U.S. on April 11th.
Need for Speed is making up serious ground overseas. The domestic disappointment has now earned over $130 million overseas, with $57 million of that coming from China. With four major territories on the way, Need for Speed should eventually race past $200 million worldwide.
Frozen added $7.5 million in Japan, which brings its total to $50 million through three weeks. Over the weekend, Frozen passed Toy Story 3 to become the highest-grossing animated movie ever; it now ranks 10th all-time with $1.07 billion worldwide.
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• After Months of Controversy, 'Noah' Finally Storms Theaters
• 'Divergent' Dominates, 'Muppets' Misses, 'God' Lives
This Weekend in Past Years:
• 2013 - Audiences Re-Enlist With 'G.I. Joe' Over Easter
• 2012 - 'Wrath,' 'Mirror' No Match for 'Hunger Games'
• 2011 - 'Hop' Lays Golden Egg• 2010 - Kraken Gets Crackin' Over Easter
• 2009 - 'Fast and Furious' Power Slides to Record Debut
• 2008 - '21' Scores
• 2007 - 'Blades' Takes Gold, 'Robinsons' Merits Silver
• 2006 - 'Ice Age 2' Hot, 'Basic Instinct 2' Not
• 2005 - Moviegoers Living in 'Sin City'
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• 2014 Yearly Box Office
• All-Time Domestic