Noah Movie Darren Aronofsky

Russell Crowe’s “Noah” looks likely to land above forecasts with an opening U.S. weekend looking at more than $40 million.

Paramount-New Regency’s Biblical epic was tracking to finish Friday slightly above $15 million at 3,936 locations, according to industry estimates, and then duplicate that number on Saturday to finish in the $41 million to $43 million range.

Reviews have been solid with a 77% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

By contrast, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s actioner “Sabotage” limped into theaters with little buzz and lousy reviews (a 21% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). Friday estimates were in the $2.3 million to $2.5 million at 2,486 locations for Open Road and a weekend total of under $7 million.

And Lionsgate-Pantelion’s “Cesar Chavez” marched into 664 locations with a respectable $1.5 million Friday, heading to a launch weekend of $4.7 million.

Friday’s “Noah” figure included $1.6 million at Thursday late-night shows in the U.S., ahead of the $1.4 million for “Gravy” and $1.1 million for “Son of God.”

Paramount’s marketing effort towards faith-based moviegoers appears to be paying off in spite of some complaints that Darren Aronofsky’s take is at odds with some of the details of the Biblical tale. The studio has remained attentive to such concerns, going so far as to include an explanatory note in its marketing materials.

“The film is inspired by the story of Noah,” the message reads. “While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.”

Lionsgate’s second weekend of “Divergent” appeared headed for a distant second-place finish, declining about 60% from its launch frame. Friday estimates looked to be coming in around $7 million for a weekend in the $22 million to $24 million range — leaving the young-adult adventure with a domestic cume slightly above $90 million after 10 days.

Disney’s soph session of “Muppets Most Wanted” appeared to be generating a decent hold from its disappointing opening, declining about 47% Friday to $2.5 million for a weekend in the $9 million to $10 million range.

Fox-DreamWorks Animation’s fourth frame of “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” remains a draw with $1.9 million Friday for a forecasted $8.2 million for the weekend and a $94 million domestic cume. Fox Searchlight’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which expands to 977 sites, also looks likely to finish the weekend above $8 million to push its Stateside total to $24 million.

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