Even Johnny Depp couldn't save Warner Bros.-Alcon Entertainment's pricey sci-fi blunder "Transcendence" from a dismal $11.2 million domestic start, with Sony's faith-based miracle "Heaven Is for Real" amassing an estimated $21.5 million in three days, with $28.5 million from Wednesday through Easter Sunday.
"Heaven Is for Real," which scored an overall 'A' CinemaScore rating, still trailed Disney-Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" over the three-day frame: The superhero holdover claimed its third straight win at the Stateside box office, grossing $26.6 million for a domestic cume of $201.5 million.
Meanwhile, the solid domestic weekend gross for "Heaven Is for Real" was foretold by the film's strong mid-week start. The film, which is based on Todd Burpo's best-selling real-life book, already has more than doubled its production cost of $12 million.
"It's definitely been a concerted effort to get the word out on this film," said Sony worldwide distribution topper Rory Bruer. "We're very proud of this result.
"The film really does promote a dialogue among so many people, whether you believe or not," Bruer added.
Also looking attract religious auds over the holiday weekend, Freestyle Releasing's "God's Not Dead" estimated $4.8 million in its fifth frame, down just 13%. The distrib is estimating a modest $1.7 million on Easter Sunday given the competition in the market place.
Attracting a more nonsecular crowd, Open Road's R-rated comedy spoof "A Haunted House 2" debuted within expectations, grossing a projected $9.1 million in three days, though only half of what the original made during opening weekend. Still, the sequel cost a modest reported $4 million to produce.
And Disneynature's wildlife documentary "Bears" got off to a decent start domestically, grossing an estimated $4.9 million from 1,720 locations. Like "Heaven Is for Real," the nature doc scored an 'A' CinemaScore, with families contributing a sizable 67% of the pic's opening three-day gross.
"Transcendence," which was budgeted for an estimated $100 million, fell mostly flat with domestic audiences, as it received a poor 'C+' CinemaScore. Auds under 18 rated the film most favorably, with a 'B' grade.
The WB-distributed film marks the directorial debut for Oscar-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister, who is the d.p.-of-choice for Christopher Nolan. The pic languished in development until Depp signed on to star. And while his presence couldn't save the film, it's likely Depp was the main draw for those who did turn out opening weekend.
"Audiences are very sophisticated," noted Warner distribution exec Jeff Goldstein, "and for the general public this just didn't look like anything they wanted to see."