“Exodus: Gods and Kings” toppled “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1″ from its perch atop the box office, but its opening weekend results fell short of heavenly status, reports Variety.

The biblical epic picked up $24.5 million from 3,503 locations. That was in line with projections, but bringing the story of Moses to life carried a hefty $140 million price tag. The 20th Century Fox production will need to perform well overseas and will have to build an audience stateside if it’s going to be profitable.

Its opening also fell short of other religious themed films such as “Noah” ($43.7 million) and “The Passion of the Christ”($83.8 million). One thing working in “Exodus’” favor is that films that open in December have a longer runway. The Christmas holidays means that many moviegoers are on vacation, allowing films that debut softly to stick around longer than they might in other times of the year.

The weekend’s other major wide new entry, “Top Five,” picked up $7.2 million across 979 locations, good enough for a fourth place finish. Chris Rock wrote, directed and stars in the film about a comedian at a professional and personal crossroads, earning some of the strongest notices of his career. Paramount Pictures picked up the film from the Toronto Film Festival for $12.5 million and as part of the pact, the studio agreed to pay at least $20 million in promotion and marketing.

The overall box office was down sharply from the year-ago period when “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” debuted to $73.6 million.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1″ may have ceded its throne, but it still pulled in a crowd, picking up second place on the charts with $13.2 million. The blockbuster sequel has earned $277.4 million after a month in theaters.

Coming in at third and fifth position were “Penguins of Madagascar” and “Big Hero 6,” which pulled in $7.3 and $6.1 million. “Penguins of Madagascar” has generated $58.8 million in receipts and “Big Hero 6″ has racked up $185.3 million.

In the art house scene, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice” did respectable business in five New York and Los Angeles locations. The adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s mystery novel earned $330,000 in its opening weekend, for a per screen average of $65,952. The film opens wide over the Christmas holidays, but may have trouble finding an audience unless it starts to generate more awards attention.

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