Meanwhile, Disney Animation's Frozen became the 18th movie ever to earn over $1 billion worldwide. More importantly, it's only the fifth movie ever to hit that milestone that's not a sequel or prequel. With an opening in Japan on the way, Frozen will likely end its run in the Top 10 all-time.
Playing at 3,090 locations, Non-Stop led the way with $28.9 million. That's a significant step up from recent Neeson movies Unknown ($21.9 million) and The Grey ($19.7 million). It's also on par with similar movies like Olympus Has Fallen ($30.4 million) and Inside Man ($29 million).
Following Lone Survivor and Ride Along, this is the third movie from Universal Pictures to open in the top spot this year. Even more impressive is the fact that all three of these movies are completely original (i.e. not sequels or reboots).
Universal hit all the right notes with the Non-Stop marketing campaign. They put the movie's unique premise front-and-center, while also showcasing the kind of action that Neeson's fanbase expects. They were also fairly aggressive in getting the message out there—for example, Universal booked plenty of ad space during NBC's Winter Olympics.
Universal is reporting that Non-Stop's audience skewed female (51 percent) and older (65 percent over the age of 25). They gave the movie a solid "A-" CinemaScore. There is some competition coming up in the next few weeks, though it's still likely that Non-Stop earns at least $80 million by the end of its run.
Son of God opened in second place with $25.6 million. That debut is miles ahead of similar Christian movies like Courageous ($9.1 million), The Nativity Story ($7.8 million) and Fireproof ($6.8 million). However, it's not in the same league as The Passion of the Christ, which earned over $26 million in its first day.
Son of God was never expected to perform in line with The Passion, though, and for what it is this is a massive success. Son of God told the quintessential story of the Christian faith—the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth—and as a result connected with a group of moviegoers that's often neglected by Hollywood. Still, back-of-the-envelope math suggests that less than five percent of regular Christian churchgoers ended up actually seeing the movie this weekend.
Son of God's success reinforces the notion that people go to the movies for more reasons than just the content on screen. In this case, nearly all of Son of God already aired on TV via The History Channel's The Bible mini-series. Audiences turned up anyway, though, because there's something special about experiencing a movie in a dark room, on a big screen, with a crowd of people.
Son of God's audience was 62 percent female, and 82 percent were 25 years of age of older. They gave the movie an "A-" CinemaScore. Without a precedent for a movie like this, though, it's unclear exactly how well Son of God will hold in the coming weeks.
After leading the box office for three-straight weeks, The LEGO Movie took third place with $20.8 million. Among fourth weekends, LEGO's ranks 16th all-time. On Saturday, The LEGO Movie became the first 2014 release to pass $200 million; if it can hold up against Mr. Peabody & Sherman next weekend, there's a chance that it ultimately gets to $300 million.
The Monuments Men held fifth place this weekend. The George Clooney movie eased 38 percent to $4.94 million, and has so far earned a solid $65.6 million.
Last week's new releases both fell hard this weekend. 3 Days to Kill plummeted 60 percent to $4.95 million, while Pompeii dropped 58 percent to $4.3 million.
Hayao Miyazaki's Oscar-nominated animated movie The Wind Rises expanded to 496 locations this weekend and earned a decent $1.52 million. Other new releases included the R-rated cut of Anchorman 2 ($1.36 million), Lionsgate/Codeblack's Repentance ($501,290 from 152 theaters) and Russian IMAX movie Stalingrad ($510,846 from 308 theaters).
On Oscar weekend, the Best Picture nominees earned $7.6 million. The top movie was American Hustle with $1.9 million; since nominations were announced on January 16th, Hustle has led the way among the contenders with $42.1 million. Overall, the nine Best Picture nominees have earned over $790 million at the domestic box office.
The Robocop remake took in $30 million this weekend, most of which came from an impressive $20.5 million debut in China. Indicative of how much this market has grown in recent years, RoboCop earned more in its first weekend than the original Iron Man earned in its entire run. RoboCop has $136 million so far, and expands in to Japan in two weeks.
Playing in 48 markets, Pompeii added $16.4 million this weekend. Its biggest new market was Germany, where it earned a weak $1.5 million. Through two weeks, Pompeii has taken in $47.7 million overseas.
A week ahead of its U.S. debut, Mr. Peabody & Sherman expanded in to a handful of major foreign markets and grossed $15.4 million. New territories included Mexico ($3 million), Germany ($2.4 million) and Brazil ($1.6 million). The DreamWorks Animation movie has so far banked $39.5 million, and opens in the U.S., Russia and Spain next weekend.
Frozen is expected to inch past $1 billion worldwide on Sunday; to date, it has earned $388.7 million at the domestic box office and $611.5 million overseas. Its top markets are South Korea ($76.2 million), the U.K. ($63.5 million), Germany ($47.7 million), France ($42.6 million) and China ($42.6 million). In two weeks, it finally opens in Japan, which could turn out to be another huge market (animated movies and musicals are both very popular there).
Excluding The Phantom Menace and Jurassic Park (which got to $1 billion via 3D re-releases), Frozen is the 16th movie to earn over $1 billion. Seven of those 16 were released by Walt Disney Pictures; the others are Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Alice in Wonderland, Toy Story 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Marvel's The Avengers and Iron Man 3.
Note: As of noon on Sunday, overseas box office was not yet available for The LEGO Movie and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
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• 'Non-Stop,' 'Son of God' to End 'LEGO's Reign This Weekend
• 'LEGO' Obliterates '3 Days,' 'Pompeii'
This Weekend in Past Years:
• 2013 - 'Jack' Not Very 'Giant'
• 2012 - Little 'Lorax' Is Box Office Giant
• 2011 - 'Rango' Moseys Into Top Spot
• 2010 - 'Shutter Island' Hangs On, 'Cop Out,' 'Crazies' Debut Decently
• 2009 - 'Madea' Gives 'Jonas Brothers' a Lickin'
• 2008 - 'Semi-Pro' Can't Jump
• 2007 - 'Wild Hogs' Easily Ride to the Top
• 2006 - '16 Blocks' Gets Clocked by 'Madea'
• 2005 - 'Pacifier' Packs Them In
• Weekend Box Office Results