LOS ANGELES (AP) -- After weathering a sea of controversy, "Noah" arrived in first place at the weekend box office.

Paramount's biblical epic starring Russell Crowe in the titular role opened with $44 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The imaginative take on the tale of Noah's Ark from "Black Swan" director Darren Aronofsky led some religious groups to claim the story had been inaccurately depicted and prompted Paramount to add a disclaimer to marketing materials noting that "artistic license has been taken" in telling the story.

The polarizing attention apparently paid off for "Noah," which features such additions to the well-known Bible story as angelic rock creatures and chic wardrobes for Noah and his family.

"Noah," which also stars Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson, also sailed smoothly in 22 international markets, such as Russia and Australia, earning $33.6 million abroad.

Elsewhere at the box office, Lionsgate's teen science-fiction thriller "Divergent," starring Shailene Woodley, came in second place and earned $26.5 million in its second weekend, bringing its domestic total to $95.3 million. "Muppets Most Wanted," the globe-trotting Muppet sequel from Disney, captured third place with $11.4 million in its second weekend.

The top 10: 1. "Noah," $44 million; 2. "Divergent," $26.5 million; 3. "Muppets Most Wanted," $11.4 million; 4. "Mr. Peabody and Sherman," $9.5 million; 5. "God's Not Dead," $9 million; 6. "The Grand Budapest Hotel," $8.


9 million; 7. "Sabotage," $5.3 million; 8. "Need for Speed," $4.3 million; 9. "300: Rise of an Empire," $4.3 million; 10. "Non-Stop," $4.1 million.