There are several "blockbuster-lite" titles releasing this March (see: 300: Rise of an Empire, Divergent), perhaps chief among them being Noah. Paramount's Biblical epic also carries its fair share of risk, in part because of Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky's (drawing from the graphic novel adaptation that he co-wrote) semi-radical take on the religious subject matter - one bound to ruffle feathers, as illustrated by pre-release test screening reactions.
The story of the prophet Noah (played in Aronofsky's film by Russell Crowe) and the flood is known around the world, so Paramount is also banking on the international box office to help recoup its $125 million investment (not including marketing costs). Furthermore, the studio will be giving Noah a 3D release in non-U.S. markets, as added insurance for healthy returns from around the globe.
According to THR's sources, Noah will be still be released in 2D only in the U.S., U.K., Australia and France - places where Paramount expects moviegoers to respond more to "the combination of the pedigree of the director and the cast and the dramatic elements of the story" - but will be available for viewing in (post-converted) 3D in other countries, in addition to the IMAX format in select locations. Paramount has spent an additional $10 million, in order to produce a 3D version of Aronofsky's film.
You can see the logic here, as 3D features (post-converted and "real" 3D titles alike) often bring in the majority of their theatrical returns from non-U.S. markets, as we've seen in recent years with Life of Pi ($125 million domestic vs. $484 million globally) and The Wolverine ($132 million domestic vs. $282 million globally). Those two specific films are fitting of comparison to Noah, since they likewise possess certain qualities that made them more appealing to audiences outside the U.S..
On that note, check out an additional international TV spot and poster for Noah (via CBM):
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The visual effects have (arguably) started to look more refined in recent Noah previews that the footage included in earlier theatrical promos, while it seems that Arnofsky's vision for the spiritual-themed action/adventure has remained largely intact, even after running the gauntlet that is studio interference and test audience feedback.
All things considered, this appears to be one "blockbuster-lite" that should be able to make a lasting impression on most everyone who sees it (be it good or bad) - not much else an artist can ask for, right?
Noah opens in U.S. theaters on March 28th, 2014.