Divergent, the latest big-screen adaptation of a Young Adult book series, easily ruled the North American box office this weekend. The sci-fi drama trounced the mild second place opening for Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted and knocked last week’s champ Mr. Peabody & Sherman down to third place. The religious feature God’s Not Dead made a strong surprise debut in fifth place. Thanks to Divergent, the top ten surged 31% over last weekend’s totals and event managed to edge up two percent over the top ten from one year ago at this time.
With The Hunger Games: Catching Fire finally heading off to home video after a $424 million theatrical run, the time was right for another film series aimed at tweens to arrive on the scene. Based on a Young Adult book series (the sequel Insurgent is already in the works), the $85 million Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment feature arrived on 3,936 screens Thursday night at 8pm to deliver a whopping $56 million and a big per-screen average of $14,228. The film was directed by Neil Burger and stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Maggie Q and Jai Courtney. Reviews were largely on the negative side for the feature but fans of the book series gave it a solid “A+” rating on CinemaScore.
While Divergent didn’t scale the opening-weekend heights of The Hunger Games or Twilight, the numbers should prove to be encouraging to Lionsgate. Not only was the $56 million opening the biggest for a live-action feature so far this year, the gross wasn’t completely front-loaded. Usually when a big event movie based on a known property opens, the opening day is where most of the money is made for opening weekend. Divergent’s opening day was $22.6 million, followed by a smaller-than-anticipated Saturday drop (-13%) to $19.7 million (Sunday is estimated to be down 31% to $13.6 million).
That even distribution of opening weekend sales could be a sign that word-of-mouth has already started to spread outside the book series fan base. If that is the case and non-fans begin to pop up to see the movie, Divergent could work its way to $150 million. One thing is for certain, the film’s sizable opening has erased fears that the Young Adult market was starting to dry up (The Hunger Games aside). Before Divergent, the last four attempts to kick-start a YA franchise (Beautiful Creatures, The Host, Mortal Instruments and Vampire Academy) all bombed.
The Muppets arrived on movie screens during Thanksgiving over two years ago. The critically-acclaimed return of Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang opened to a big $41.5 million en route to a domestic final haul of $88 million. With critical and viewer loved bestowed upon The Muppets, a sequel was a given: Muppets Most Wanted. While the critical support was there once again for the gang, the audience was not. With competition coming in from the likes of Mr. Peabody & Sherman, The Lego Movie and even Frozen, Muppets Most Wanted arrived on 3,194 screens Friday to earn a mild $16.5 million.
In addition to strong competition, Most Wanted did not carry with it the novelty of being the first new Muppet feature in well over a decade. Unless word-of-mouth is stellar, Most Wanted will fall short of the $50 million that was spent on the movie’s production, at least domestically. The first movie did enough business overseas that there is a good chance foreign markets will come to the rescue and make the second round of Kermit a bit more Wanted.
After climbing to the number one position last weekend, Fox/Dreamworks’ Mr. Peabody & Sherman fell to third while losing 46% of its audience in its third weekend. The animated comedy has earned $81 million so far and should make its way past the $100 million mark by the end of its domestic run, a solid but unspectacular (in relation to production cost) run. Foreign markets have contributed $102 million so far.
In fourth place was Warner’s blood-soaked sequel 300: Rise of An Empire, which slayed 55% fewer people in its third round to earn $8.6 million on 3,085 screens. To date, the Spartan epic has earned $93.7 million and should finish near the $110 million mark. The movie has earned $195.4 million overseas thus far.
Rounding out the top five was Freestyle’s religious-themed drama God’s Not Dead. Opening on 780 screens and no doubt aimed at the same church and other faith-based groups that turned Son of God into a $60 million hit, God’s Not Dead earned a great $8.56 million for a per-screen average of $10,979. The drama stars Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain and tells the story of a college student challenged by his professor to prove the existence of God.
The remainder of the top ten is as follows:
6. Need for Speed (Disney) $7.7 million (-56%); $30.4 million
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight) $6.7 million (+85%); $13 million
8. Non-Stop (Universal) $6.3 million (-40%); $78.6 million
9. The Lego Movie (Warner) $4.1 million (-46%); $243.3 million
10. Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club (Lionsgate) $3.1 million (-62%); $13 million
Next weekend brings the arrival of the Russell Crowe biblical feature Noah and the Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick Sabotage. Watch for Noah to give Divergent a run for the top spot. Sorry, Arnie.