Paramount and Regency Enterprises’ epic delivered an estimated $44m number one debut in North America that exceeded expectations – now the question is will it hold.

With the release this week of Marvel Studios’ Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Noah will almost certainly be dethroned.

However the industry will watch to see whether Darren Aronofsky’s dark Biblical epic has done enough to entice curious minds in the coming weeks and eat into the repoted $125m cost. The film is playing well internationally, where it has raced to $51.1m after two sessions.

The $44m North American launch gave Russell Crowe the biggest debut of his career. Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone and Anthony Hopkins also star. A 341-strong Imax screen count generated $6.2m and $8.8m worldwide.

Last weekend’s champion Divergent from Summit-Lionsgate  fell 52% to second place on a solid $26.5m for $95.3m with the international run yet to begin in earnest through Lionsgate licensees.

Arnold Schwarzenegger action film Sabotage disappointed on its debut through Open Road, arriving in seventh place on $5.3m from 2,486 theatres for a lowly $2,144 average.

Last weekend’s surprise hit God’s Not Dead dropped only one place in its second weekend through Freestyle Releasing to number five. The faith-based drama expanded by 398 theatres into 1,178 and added $9.1m for $22m.

Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel continued to perform in its fourth weekend. The comedy climbed one place to number six after expanding by 673 sites to 977 and added $8.8m for $24.5m through Fox Searchlight.

Warner Bros’ 300: Rise Of An Empire crossed $100m in its fourth session and ranks ninth on $101.1m. DreamWorks’ Need For Speed sits in eighth place through Buena Vista and has amassed a weak $37.8m after three.

Cesar Chavez, the true-life drama about the Mexican civil rights activist produced by Mexico’s Canana Films, arrived at number 12.

Canana partner Diego Luna directed the film starring Michael Pena and it opened on $3m from 664 sites through Pantelion, the joint venture between Lionsgate and Mexico’s Grupo Televiso.

SPC opened Gareth Evans’ Indonesian martial arts sequel The Raid 2 on $177,000 from seven sites for a mighty $25,286 average.

Box office for the top 12 climbed 0.1% against last weekend and fell approximately 4.5% versus the comparable session of 2013.

This week’s wide release is Marvel Studios’ Captain America: The Winter Soldier through Buena Vista starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L Jackson, Robert Redford, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan.

Estimated Top 10 North America Mar 28-30 2014
Film (Dist) / Est wkd gross / Est total to date

1 (-) Noah (Paramount) Paramount Pictures International $44m –

2 (1) Divergent (Summit-Lionsgate) Lionsgate International $26.5m $95.3m

3 (2) Muppets Most Wanted (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $11.4m $33.2m

4 (3) Mr. Peabody & Sherman (DreamWorks Animation-Fox) Fox International $9.5m $94.9m

5 (4) God’s Not Dead (Freestyle Releasing) $9.1m $22m

6 (7) The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight) Fox International $8.8m $24.5m

7 (-) Sabotage (Open Road) QED International $5.3m –

8 (6) Need For Speed (DreamWorks-Buena Vista) WDSMPI/Mister Smith $4.3m $37.8m

9 (5) 300: Rise of An Empire (Warner Bros) WBPI $4.3m $101.1m

10 (8) Non-Stop (Universal) StudioCanal $4.1m $85.2m