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'Noah' rises to top of box office with $44M debut

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 by filmmaker Darren Aronofsky led some religious groups to claim the story had been inaccurately portrayed and prompted Paramount to add a disclaimer to marketing materials saying that "artistic license has been taken" in telling the story.

Lionsgate's teen science-fiction thriller "Divergent" starring Shailene Woodley earned $26.5 million in its second weekend.

Disney's globe-trotting Muppet sequel "Muppets Most Wanted" featuring Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais came in third place with $11.4 million in its second weekend.

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