OPENING: Non-Stop (UNI) the Liam Neeson airplane suspense thriller looks to take No. 1 with a new $28.5M to $30M estimate on Sunday and a final of $28.8M; Son Of God (FOX) a blessing from $23.5M to $25M now expected at $25M+ to $29M for No. 2 with a final of $25.6M; NOTEWORTHY: Expanding is The Wind Rises (DIS) to take a nice $1.5M for the three-day. Sony released the Russian hit Stalingrad in 3-D on 308 IMAX screens this weekend. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (PAR) in re-release grossed another $1.3M to raise its cume to $126.5M.

Box office3RD UPDATE, MONDAY 1:15 PM: The final numbers are in and Non-Stop ended up with $28.8M for Universal who had it estimated higher this weekend. Son Of God took in $25.6M in its debut for Fox. There were some changes in positions when the dust cleared today, with Relativity’s 3 Days To Kill displacing The Monuments Men for the four spot, but  No. 3 was solidly with The Lego Movie which has grossed $20.8M for a whopping $209M in only four weeks for Warner Bros.

Next weekend, audiences will see new releases of Warner Bros.’ 300: Rise Of An Empire which will start on 8 PM showings Thursday night and the animated family film from Fox, Mr. Peabody And Sherman. When I went to see Frozen and the trailer for Peabody  ran prior to, the kids around me were already repeating the film’s lines and laughing aloud. The family film has already bowed overseas and has grossed around $38.6M, according to Fox’s most recent numbers today.

Non-Stop (2014) -- Screengrab from exclusive clip.1). Non-Stop (UNI) 3,090 theaters / 3-day cume: $28.8M / Per screen average: $9,345 / Wk 1

2). Son Of God (FOX) 3,260 theaters / 3-day cume: $25.6M / Per screen: $7,853 / Wk 1

3). The Lego Movie (WB), 3,770 theaters (-120) / 3-day cume: $20.8M (-33%) / Per screen: $5,525 / Total cume: $209.1M / Wk 4

4). 3 Days To Kill (REL), 2,872 theaters (0) / $3-day cume: $4.9M (-60%) / Per screen: $1,724 / Total Cume: $20.7M / Wk 2

5). The Monuments Men (SONY) 3,002 theaters (-62) / 3-day cume: $4.9M (-38%) / Per screen: $1,646 / Total cume: $65.6M / Wk 4

6). RoboCop (SONY/MGM) 2,885 theaters (-487) / 3-day cume: $4.5M (-54%) / Per screen: $1,563 / Total cume: $51.2M / Wk 3

7). Pompeii (SONY) 2,658 theaters (0) / 3-day cume: $4.3M (-58%) / Per screen: $1,630 / Total cume: $17.7M / Wk 2

8). Frozen (DIS), 1,746 theaters (-145) / 3-day cume: $3.6M (-18%) / Per screen: $2,080 / Total cume: $388.7M / Wk 15

9). About Last Night (SONY), 1,804 theaters (-449) / 3-day cume: $3.3M (-55%) / Per screen: $1,875 / Total cume: $43.7M / Wk 3

10).Ride Along (UNI), 1,869  theaters (-321) / 3-day cume: $3M (-34%) / Per screen: $1,625 / Total cume: $127.1M / Wk 7


The Wind Rises (DIS) 496 theaters / 3-daycume: $1.5M / Per screen $3,059 / Total cume: $1.9M / Wk 2

Stalingrad (SONY) 308 theaters (3D) / 3-day cume: $510K / Per screen average: $1,659 / Wk 1

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues  (PAR) 1,317 theaters / 3-day cume: $1.3M / Per screen: $1,032 / Total cume: $126.5 / re-release

Son-of-God-Images2ND UPDATE, SUNDAY, 7:43 AM: After a strong Saturday night, Non-Stop’s total cume for the 3-day weekend has been estimated towards the high end of yesterday’s expectations — with a $30M gross and a wonderful $8,200 per screen average for Universal. In its second weekend out, Relativity’s 3 Days To Kill got hurt by the strong showing of Non-Stop as the audience for the two pics are very similar. Son Of God is still expected to gross anywhere from $25.7M to $26.7M as the film culled together with edits while shooting the 10-part The Bible series — re-purposed, repackaged and heavily promoted by the brilliant business minds of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey — is a winner for Fox. Congrats to them and to Fox chair Jim Gianopolous who said yes to bringing the film in last year and taking a gamble on the Biblical-based project. The marketing and distribution teams will be able to apply what they learned here for the Christian Bale-starring Exodus and Paramount, which has been watching and planning for their Russell Crowe film, Noah. Burnett and Downey worked hard and did their homework. Meanwhile, Frozen, with a total of $388.8M and a tremendous hold domestically for Disney — still playing in the top ten after 15 weeks in release (unheard of) — is set to cross the $1 billion mark today.

The lesson to studio heads and marketers is whether its Son Of God or the (below mentioned) Fireproof, that there is an audience to be had if you market these faith-based films past the tried and true frequent moviegoers. In other words, you can market successfully and don’t need to fall back on “we’ll just sell it as an actioner.” There is an appetite for Biblical films as Fox’s own history shows; it just takes a more creative (and thoughtful) approach … and the time to be able to carry it out. Son of God played well across the country, especially in San Diego, Oklahoma City, Houston, Miami, Sacramento, Chicago and throughout New Jersey. Heck, these guys even had Korean subtitled and Spanish-dubbed versions in the marketplace this weekend in select U.S. markets.

The question is what will happen in the second weekend. According to Fox distribution head Chris Aronson, “I really think ‘the word’ will continue to spread. There is an amazing reaction in our exit polls. The grassroots efforts that Mark and Roma put into place was extraordinary.” He noted that the film had a phemon 91% rating on PostTrak was was heavily weighted to excellent with an impressive 72%. In addition, it has an incredible 80% recommend and played 62% female and 38% to males with 82% of moviegoers over 25; 18% under. The theaters playing Spanish-language grew in a just few days as they were booking theaters and 4% of the gross came from those theaters … 22% of the audience was Hispanic.

Years ago when I first arrived, I was stunned to learn that unlike large corporations such as McDonald’s and Nestle who had recognized the need for diversity in marketing, there were no marketing execs who specialized in the minority markets within the studio’s filmed entertainment units. There were lots of dollars left sitting on the table. There is an analogy to be made here. You can increase the grosses for your films on opening weekend beyond the norm … and that includes infrequent movie goers. Sorry, but my background is in marketing and advertising and as many of you know, it is a passion of mine – it’s all about thinking up creative ways to bring audiences in and be all inclusive.

legoTo continue, the No. 3 spot goes to The Lego Movie which continues to build, surpassing the $200M mark for a $21M to $21.5M take, pushing its total cume to $209M and the original expectation of $18.5M to $19M much higher. And I must call attention to the second weekend of Pompei. The understatement of the year: There is no way this film can be profitable with a $100M budget (Constantin/FilmDistrict) with a $17.6M to date and a 60% drop. Its worldwide estimated cume as of today is $40.4M. I feel bad for these guys as no one sets out to make an unprofitable movie and all have visions of success, but the industry talks about movies like 47 Ronin and pile on, but there are ones just as bad and worse.

NOTEWORTHY: In a clever marketing move, Paramount re-released Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues touting 700 new jokes this weekend on 1,317 runs to make an estimated $1.3M to add to its total cume: $126.5M. Thinking outside the box pays off. The Wind Rises expanded this weekend on 455 screens to take in a respectable $1.4M for a toal cume of $1.9M for Disney who is distributing the animated picture from legendary Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. And Stalingrad, which was a hit in Russia, bowed here in 3D formats on 308 screens to take in an estimated $500K for the weekend for a per location average of about $1,622.

Here are the numbers as they look this morning and all is, of course, dependent on the Sunday percentage drops:

1). Non-Stop (UNI) 3.090 theaters / $10M Fri. / $12.4M Sat. / $7.5M Sun. / 3-day cume: $28.5M to $30M / Wk 1

2). Son Of God (FOX) 3,255 theaters / $9.4M Fri. / $9.35M Sat. / $6.9M Sun. / 3-day cume: $25.7M to $26.7M / Wk 1

3). The Lego Movie (WB), 3,770 theaters (-120) / $4.4M Fri. / $10.3M Sat. / $6.2M Sun. / 3-day cume: $21.5 (-32%) / Total cume: $209.3M / Wk 4

4). Monuments Men (SONY) 3,002 theaters (-62) /$1.4M Fri. / $2.3M Sat. / $1.19M Sun. / 3-day cume: $5.1M (-36%) / Total cume: $65.7M / Wk 4

5). 3 Days To Kill (REL), 2,872 theaters (0) / $1.4M Fri. / $2.3M Sat. / $1.1M Sun. / $3-day cume: $4.8M (-60%) / Total Cume: $20.7M / Wk 2

6). RoboCop (SONY/MGM) 2,885 theaters (-487) / $1.1M Fri. / $2M Sat. / $1.1M Sun. / 3-day cume: $4.4M (-56%) / Total cume: $51.1M / Wk 3

7). Pompeii (SONY) 2,658 theaters (0) / $1.2M Fri. / $1.9M Sat. / $975M Sun. / 3-day cume: $4.1M (-60%) / Total cume: $17.6M / Wk 2

8). Frozen (DIS), 1,746 theaters (-145) / $700K. Fri. / $1.7M Sat. / $1.1M Sun. / 3-day cume: $3.6M (-18%) / Total cume: $388.8M / Wk 15

9). About Last Night (SONY), 1,804 theaters (-449) / $1M Fri. / $1.5M Sat. / $700k Sun. / 3-day cume: $3.2M to $3.4M (-55%) / Total cume: $43.7M / Wk 3

10).Ride Along (UNI), 1,865  theaters (-321) / $878K Fri. / $1.4M Sat. / $670K Sun. / 3-day cume: $3M (-34%) / Total cume: $127.1M / Wk 7

UPDATE, SATURDAY, 7:15 AM: Estimates have been pushed higher for Uni’s Non-Stop Saturday morning showing a $10M take on Friday and a new three-day cume of $28.5M to $30M. The screen average for the Liam Neeson thriller set in an airplane is now expected to be hearty $9,209 or more. This picture is from producer Joel Silver, Alexander Heineman and Andrew Rona and Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra. Non-Stop co-stars Julianne Moore, and 12 Years a Slave‘s supporting actress nominee Lupita Nyong’o with Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery. Son of God is also soaring. Non-Stop NeesonThe Bible pic has not ventured too much off its Friday path but estimates for its cume has raised to $25.9M to $28M for the three-day. The question is how much moviegoing will drop on Sunday. The Lego Movie (which shed 120 theaters in its fourth week) is passing $200M at the box office this weekend for Warner Bros. on an estimated take of $18.6M to $19M. That is the first tier of films. Rounding out the top five is Sony’s Monuments Men in its fourth week for a $4.9M to $5.1M expected three-day gross and holding nicely while 3 Days to Kill from Relativity and EuropaCorp in its sophomore weekend for $4.5M to $4.7M dropped 63% weekend to weekend. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues – re-released from Paramount with an R-rating with over 700 more jokes  — secured 1,317 runs this weekend to pull in about 415K on Friday night for an expected $1.1M take. The marketing move by Paramount squeezed a bit more out of the comedy to give it a new, estimated cume of $123.3M. son-of-godThe animated The Wind Rises, which Disney expanded this weekend to 475 screens, has a stronger than expected per screen average this morning with $3,192 or a total take of $1.5M. Disney’s Frozen is still in the Top Ten and with a total 3-day expected of $388.2M it now looks like it over $988M worldwide to date. Columbia Pictures released Stalingrad on 308 IMAX screens. The Russian-language film, which was a hit in its home country, took in an estimated $147K and looks to take $451K on 308 runs for a estimated per screen of $1,465. What is not unexpected, but still impressive is the strong holds that all the Oscar-nominated films had this weekend.

PREVIOUS, FRIDAY, 12:46 AM: The story of the weekend is a Biblical one. Yes, Non-Stop,the Liam Neeson suspense thriller set on an airplane is flying to the No. 1 spot for Universal based on Friday night estimates, but Fox’s Son of God has risen up, up and away to show its power. Together, they have prevented The Lego Movie from taking the No. 1 spot for the fourth week in a row (a feat that has not been accomplished since Hunger Games did it in 2012). Son-Of-God-2014-ImagesBoth pictures received an A- CinemaScore. The Lego Movie is a solid third place finisher and is expected to gross around $19M over the three-day weekend. After that, comes the rest of the pack scrambling for dollars in the $3M to $5M range.

No one could  predict what Son of God was capable of grossing this weekend. Estimates were all over the place — even after it took in a phenom $1.2M last night — because the audience for faith-based product has traditionally been hard to track. In fact, there is really no model to track an audience like this who aren’t frequent moviegoers. Distributors watched this morning as the numbers continued strong as did the afternoon grosses as it showed no signs of slowing and tonight, there is agreement and no question that this faith-based film is getting a rebirth at the box office. 6dbbc686-ab91-43fb-94bc-c01f7184637aThe story of Jesus was edited together with clips from The Bible series which had already aired on the History Channel combined with “new footage” and then promoted heavily through church groups. That came after a Colorado-based company called Compassion International bought up tickets and gave them away to churches in 40 U.S. cities, helping to fuel $4.5M in pre-sales. Reality TV king Mark Burnett produced and then relentlessly promoted the picture (with exec producer Roma Downey) for Fox over the past few months. The result, so far, has paid off handsomely. Those results should encourage both Paramount and Fox which have Biblical-storied films in Noah and Exodus, respectively, coming out this year. There is an audience. One just has to market the pictures properly.

Also noteworthy: In their second weekends out, 3 Days To Kill (REL) is expected to fall 58% from its opening weekend and even worse is the roughly $100M-budgeted Pompeii which is leaving its financiers Constantin (with marketing and distribution costs from FilmDistrict) ashen-faced as it is expected to drop 61%. Here are the positions and numbers now based on Friday night estimates, and positions in the top ten may change in the AM, but here is how it looks now:

NOTEWORTHY: Disney’s The Wind Rises expanded to 500 theaters this week and is estimated to blow in $1.8M this weekend.