‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ storms past ‘Mockingjay’ at US box office

By Lindsey Bahr, AP

LOS ANGELES — After three weeks of U.S. box office dominance, ��The Hunger Games: Mockingjay �X Part 1�� ceded its reign to ��Exodus: Gods and Kings.�� The biblical epic easily ruled the weekend with a US$24.5 million debut, according to box office tracker Rentrak’s Sunday estimates, while ��The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies�� dominated international charts with a staggering US$117.6 million from 38 territories in advance of its North America release this week.

��The Hunger Games: Mockingjay �X Part 1,�� down 40 percent from last weekend, came in a distant second, earning US$13.2 million.

With an expensive US$140 million production budget, ��Exodus: Gods and Kings�� met expectations in its first weekend. But it failed to live up to the precedent set by some recent biblically themed films, including ��Noah,�� which opened to US$43.7 million in March.

��I think Hollywood is learning that putting epic, biblical stories on the big screen comes at a pretty heavy price. It’s not easy to do this,�� Rentrak’s senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said.

Fox’s domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson said he is happy about the performance of his studio’s film.

��We’re feeling great,�� Aronson said. ��We came in right where our expectations were.��

According to the studio, opening weekend crowds for the film were divided fairly evenly down gender lines, but they skewed older with 65 percent over the age of 25.

��It’s a very diverse audience,�� said Aronson, noting that 20 percent were African American and 18 percent Hispanic. ��It’s a movie for everyone.��

Also new in theaters, ��Top Five,�� from writer, director and star Chris Rock, opened strongly. The Paramount-distributed comedy took in an estimated US$7.2 million from only 979 locations to take the fourth-place spot right behind ��Penguins of Madagascar.��