Ridley Scott's biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings overcame concerns and criticism over its casting process to topple The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 at the North American box-office. The movie clocked up $24.5 million from 3,503 screens though generally it fell short of expectations and is still miles from its $140 million price-tag.

Exodus: Gods and KingsChristian Bale stars in Ridley Scott's biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings

Still, 20th Century Fox are still confident that Exodus will perform well overseas and begin turning a profit. According to Variety, Gods and Kings played particularly well to Hispanic and African-American moviegoers - ironic given its near all-white cast.

More: Rupert Murdoch defends casting of Exodus

"We got the religious audience, but the opening audience was much more diverse than just that," said Spencer Klein, executive vice president of theatrical distribution at Fox.

"This is a great start for us leading into the holiday stretch," added Klein, "In this play period you get such a big multiple [on a film's opening weekend]."

More: Christian Bale defends primarily white Exodus cast

Mockingjay - Part 1 may have lost its throne at the top of the box-office table, though it still picked up second place with a reasonably solid $13.2 million. The penultimate tale in the dystopian franchise has now earned $277.4 million after 4 weeks in cinemas.

Christian Bale ExodusChristian Bale defended the primarily white cast in Exodus: Gods and Kings

In third was Penguins of Madagascar with Big Hero 6 not far behind. In the arthouse scene, it was Paul Thomas Anderson's druggy comedy-drama Inherent Vice that did pretty well, earning $330,000 in its opening weekend for $65,952 per screen. The movie rolls out everywhere on January 9.

Elsewhere in the Oscars-race, The Theory of Everything - with Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking - took $2.5 million, while The Imitation Game took $875,136 to push its total to $2 million.

More: Eddie Redmayne joins Oscars hunt in stunning The Theory of Everything

Fox's Wild, featuring a potentially Oscar winning performance from Reese Witherspoon, took $1.6 million from 116 theatres, while Birdman took $1.3 million to fly past the $20 million total.

Next week, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Annie and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb will all be competing for the Christmas number-one spot.

Watch the trailer for Exodus: Gods and Kings: