Faith-based film "Heaven Is for Real" soared at the Easter weekend box office, earning a stellar $21.5 million from 2,417 theaters to bury big-budget sci-fi epic "Transcendence," which opened to a dismal $11.5 million from 3,455 locations.
"Transcendence" marks the third big-budget bomb in a row for Johnny Depp after "The Lone Ranger" and "Dark Shadows" (both of those movies opened to roughly $29 million, but never found success). In terms of Depp's openings, "Transcendence" came in lower than "The Tourist," which debuted to $16.5 million in 2010.
Overseas, where Depp arguably remains a bigger star, "Transcendence" debuted to $17.4 million from 27 markets, led by China with a solid $11.4 million.
Overall, top spoils in North America went to holdovers "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and "Rio 2."
"Captain America," staying at No. 1 for its third consecutive weekend, grossed $26.6 million from 3,825 locations to cross the $200 million mark domestically and hit $586.6 million worldwide in another major victory for Marvel Studios and Disney.
Fox's animated family film "Rio 2" grossed $22.5 million from 3,975 locations in its second weekend for a domestic total of $75.4 million.
"Heaven Is for Real," placing No. 3 and clearly benefiting from the Easter holiday, is the latest Christian film to exceed expectations. From Sony's TriStar label, the movie opened Wednesday and earned an impressive $28.5 million in its first five days.
Produced by influential pastor T. D. Jakes, director Randall Wallace and Hollywood veteran Joe Roth, "Heaven Is for Real" stars Greg Kinnear and earned an A CinemaScore. The drama did its biggest business in the country's Bible Belt, but appealed to mainstream audiences as well.
The movie is based on the real-life story of Nebraska pastor Todd Burpo, whose young son said he found himself in heaven during emergency surgery. The film is adapted from the pastor's book of the same name, co-written by Lynn Vincent.
"It's really a terrific result," said Sony's distribution chief Rory Bruer. "And Easter was certainly a date that was in the wheelhouse of the film."
Easter weekend provided further evidence that 2014 is indeed the year of the Bible movies. "Heaven Is for Real" was one of three such titles populating the top 10 chart. "Noah" placed No. 9 with $5 million for a domestic cume of $93.2 million, while "God's Not Dead" came in No. 10 with $4.8 million, pushing its total to $48.2 million.
Heading into the weekend, no one expected the $12 million "Heaven Is for Real" to beat "Transcendence," which cost a hefty $100 million to produce. "Transcendence" suffered from scathing reviews and a C+ CinemaScore.
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