This weekend brings Darren Aronofsky‘s Noah to the big screen, and it brings up interesting questions: How do you best succeed with a bible-based movie?

Recently we’ve seen God’s Not Dead and Son of God do surprisingly well. But surprisingly well in the context of not costing a lot. Those who hope to use those films to beat up on Noah don’t understand the games being played (Noah cost over a hundred million and will make more money than those two). But then how do you make a big budget spectacle Bible movie successfully? We’ll see when Ridley Scott‘s Exodus comes later this year.

But the big problem is this: Politics and right-leaning religious figures have made a point of suggesting that Hollywood is run by liberal hippy types who are more than likely atheists. Regardless of the fact that the Republican party’s most successful president of the last fifty years is an actor, or that they had Clint Eastwood speak at their national convention, these people are supposedly the outliers. So when someone like Darren Aronofsky makes a film like this, the religious right is suspicious their faith is going to be made to look stupid. They’re suspicious their beliefs will be taken to task, and that what they believe will be falsely portrayed. Paramount then had to tag the film with a disclaimer suggesting it was an interpretation.

The problem is that if Aronofsky and company courted that audience — which they didn’t — it could turn off others, but from the outset those who believe aren’t necessarily interested in the film. And one can’t imagine someone like Aronofsky or even Russell Crowe doing well in a 700 Club-type situation, when they are obviously outsiders.

The one who pulled it off was Mel Gibson. His The Passion of the Christ became a phenomenon. But how? It was partly that Gibson obviously believed in every frame and self-financed the picture, so it was an act of faith, and the fact that Gibson had directed it, and that it was shot in the original language made it a curio for those who might not believe. But it was done outside of the system, even if it made blockbuster numbers.

Noah, Noah is a curio that has no critical support, nor studio support, and it’s basically hoping to make its money through international numbers. Domestically it could be outgrossed by Son of God. We shall see.

Oh, Arnold Schwarzenegger has a new movie. His films don’t make money any more. If this does above $15 Million, it’s a huge success. Since critics hate it, and it’s R rated…. It may find an audience on home video.

So let’s predict

  1. Noah - $29.5 Million
  2. Divergent – $23.7 Million
  3. Sabotage - $11.5 Million
  4. Muppets Most Wanted – $9.8 Million
  5. The Grand Budapest Hotel – $8.5 Million

I may be going high on Sabotage as The Last Stand opened to $6 Million.

What are you going to watch this weekend?