‘Divergent’ Scores $56 Million Box-Office Opening, ‘A’ CinemaScore – And a Franchise Is Born (Video)

Shailene Woodley and Theo James’ sci-fi tale dominates as “Muppets Most Wanted” takes soft second place and faith-based “God's Not Dead” surprises

“Divergent,” the big-screen adaptation of Veronica Roth's best-selling, young-adult adventure novels, conquered the domestic box office with a sizzling $56 million first weekend.

It marks the second-best opening of the year — behind only the $69 million of “The Lego Movie” in February — and the futuristic sci-fi tale starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James also gave Lionsgate Entertainment a successful launch for its next teen franchise. The studio behind the “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” series has scheduled “Insurgent,” the sequel to “Divergent,” for next March, and the third film, “Allegiant,” is set for the same slot in 2016.

“Divergent” dominated over the weekend's runner-up, Disney's family movie “The Muppets Most Wanted,” which opened to an underwhelming $16.5 million to beat out last week's No. 1 movie, DreamWorks Animation's “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” scoring third place with $11.7 million.

See video: ‘The Twivergent Games: The Saga: Bloody Dawn – Part 1' Trailer: The Hottest YA Couples Prepare for Battle

The independent faith-based movie “God's Not Dead” finished a surprising fifth, taking in $8.5 million from just 780 screens to finish just behind “300: Rise of an Empire” ($8.6 million) and just ahead of “Need for Speed” ($7.7 millon). And “The Grand Budapest Hotel” continued to build momentum. Wes Anderson‘s ensemble comedy brought in $6.5 million after Fox Searchlight expanded it from 66 to 304 theaters. That's a very strong $21,535 per-screen average, by the far the best of any movie in release.

There haven't been many movies that directly targeted young women since “The Hunger Games” in November, and they turned out in force for “Divergent.” Nearly 60 percent of its audience was female, and about half were under the age of 25. They liked it more than the critics — it's at 40 percent “fresh” on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes — and gave it an “A” CinemaScore.

Also read: 10 of the Most Loved or Hated Movies: Films That Got A+ or F CinemaScores

Launching a teen franchise is an accomplishment for Lionsgate. No other studio has managed to since Warner Bros.’ launch of “Harry Potter” 13 years ago, and Hollywood has been trying to recreate the formula for a book-based teen adventure series for years. Recent attempts like “Beautiful Creatures,” “The Host,” “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” and “Vampire Academy” all bombed, but studios keep trying because the returns can be huge.

Also read: James Franco and Seth Rogen Spoof Kanye and Kim Kardashian's Vogue Cover (Photo)

“Twilight” opened to $69.6 million in November of 2008 and went on to take in $192.7 million domestically and another $199.8 million abroad. Four sequels later, the franchise had brought in more than $3.3 billion worldwide. “The Hunger Games” stunned Hollywood with a record $152.5 million opening in March of 2012, and rolled up $408 million domestically and another $283 million worldwide. Its sequel, “Catching Fire,” opened to a huge $158 million in November and is over $864 million worldwide.

The PG-13-rated “Divergent” didn't match those openings numbers, and has faced comparisons with the earlier Lionsgate hits because the source material and target demographic are similar. In “Divergent,” Woodley's character Tris Prior struggles against the system in a futuristic dystopia, much as Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen did in the “The Hunger Games.”

Lionsgate's President of Domestic Distribution Richie Fay said he thought getting out of the shadow of the other two young adult hits made a big difference.

Also read: Kate Winslet in ‘Divergent,’ Meryl Streep in ‘The Giver': 7 YA Films Featuring Award-Winning Actors

“Nancy Kirkpatrick (Summit Entertainment's president of worldwide marketing) and her team did a great job of helping this movie establish its own identity, and the young stars got out on the circuit and they clearly connected,” said Fay, who saw encouraging signs in the demographic breakdown.

BoxOffice323-ya“It was mainly young women, but the even split on the ages and the 40 percent males makes me think we're going to be able to broaden beyond our core over the next few weeks and spring break,” he said.

See photos: 15 Eye-Popping ‘Divergent’ Stills: Kate Winslet, Shailene Woodley, and Theo James in Summit's Sci-Fi Thriller

“Divergent,” which was produced for $85 million, is directed by Neil Burger (“Limitless”) and adapted by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor. The cast includes Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoë Kravitz, Tony Goldwyn and Mekhi Phifer.

The opening for “Muppets Most Wanted” was under the $20 million that the studio and analysts had projected, and well off the $29 million that 2011's “The Muppets” debuted to on its way to a 165 million worldwide haul.

Also read: ‘Divergent’ Star Theo James on Gay Action Heroes, Film's Bisexual Undertones: ‘I Can See It’

Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais and Ty Burrell starred in “The Muppets Most Wanted,” which may have been hurt by another family-targeting film featuring Burrell, the star of TV's “Modern Family,” or at least his voice. “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” in which Burrell provides the pipes for the genius pooch, raised its domestic total to $81 million with a solid third-week showing.

The audience for “Most Wanted” was 71 percent families, and they gave it a “B+” CinemaScore.

The low-budget and PG-rated “God's Not Dead” made the post of its limited run with a per-screen average of nearly $11,000 – better than any movie in the market except for “Divergent” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

See video: ‘Divergent’ Star Theo James Does All His Own Fighting in New Behind-The-Scenes Look

The drama about a college student who sets out to prove God's existence, had Freestyle Releasing President Mark Borde looking ahead to an expansion next week.

“On such few screens to compete so strongly on a national platform says so much about the film, the filmmakers, and the target audience who love this movie,” he said Sunday.

Also read: ‘God's Not Dead’ Stuns With Strong Limited Opening at Box Office

Kevin Sorbo, David A.R. White and Willie Robertson of TV's “Duck Dynasty” co-star in the film, which was directed by Harold Cronk and produced by Pure Flix Entertainment and Red Entertainment.

Justin Bateman's directorial debut “Bad Words” expanded from six to 87 theaters and brought in about $498,000 for Focus Features, a solid $5,720 per-screen average for the R-rated spelling bee comedy.

Also read: ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ Review: Superheroic, Yes, But Smart and Subversive Too

Lars von Trier‘s “Nymphomaniac: Volume 1” debuted on 24 screens and brought in about $174,00 for Magnolia Pictures. That's a pretty good $7,240 per-screen average for the unrated Danish sex drama, which has been available on demand for since March 7.

The crowd-funded comedy mystery “Veronica Mars” added 56 theaters but took a major 75 percent tumble from its first weekend, and took in just $490,00 for Warner Bros. It's two-week domestic is $2.8 million.

Watch TheWrap's ‘The Twivergent Games’ Trailer:

  • Jack Bauer

    Attention haters. If you predicted this movie would be a flop there is nothing for you to say here. You made a specific prediction about what the movie would make and have now been proven wrong. Venting your frustrations about how the movie didn't deserve this is just laughable. So is the concept of being sick of young adult movies when comic book movies outnumber them 20 to 1.

    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      Why would I care about how much a movie makes? I'm not not on the payroll. I'm not getting a cut of the profits, so it doesn't matter to me.

      The only time that I would ever care about box office is:

      1. If I was a producer, and stood to make/lose money on how well/poorly it performs.
      2. If my movie is opening the same week of another movie.

      • Jack Bauer

        It makes sense for people to want movies they like to make a lot of money thus guaranteeing sequels. But your right it makes no sense for people to care about a movie they have no interest in seeing. Rooting for a movies success makes a lot more sense than rooting against it is my point.

        • Honey Badger Don't Care

          Sequels are horrible and ruin the integrity of a movie. People who want sequels don't see movies as works of art.

          Sequels aren't made for the love of the craft. They are only made for money.

          • Jack Bauer

            No making one movie based on a book series that has 3 books would ruin the integrity of a series though. There are 3 Divergent books so how could they not make 3 movie?

          • Honey Badger Don't Care

            The Godfather has 5 books. And all it needed was one movie. The second was okay, but the third one was plain horrible.

          • Jack Bauer

            Divergent isn't the same as Godfather. It is a continuation saga the first movie ends with the plot not being resolved. Godfather could have stood on its own because they tied up the story but left some room for a sequel. The 3rd was horrible. But comparing Divergent to Godfather makes no sense.

          • Honey Badger Don't Care

            I was comparing The Godfather it's sequels.

            But Divergent isn't a labor of love anyway. The movie was greenlit purely to make money, and to cash in on The Hunger Games’ success.

          • Jack Bauer

            Ya and how do you think non sequel Oscar movies get funded? By big budget franchises and sequels.

          • Honey Badger Don't Care

            It doesn't take a lot of money to make those films. They can make one of those movies for $5M. Which is like nothing to a studio. They wipe their ass with $5M.

            Now a movie like Avengers costs about half-billion (which again is nothing to Disney).

          • Jack Bauer

            Every single movie that was nominated for best picture this year cost more than 10 million to make. 2 of them cost 100 million.

          • Jack Bauer

            They wipe there ass with 5 million because again they make a lot of money off of the franchises.

          • Patrick

            Their*

          • jamison

            The second Godfather was even better than the first Godfather, and it won an Oscar for Best Picture .

          • anonymous

            Insurgent comes out in march next year and allegient the following march! The movie was amazing and I agree three books need three movies..

          • tbhyolo

            I disagree. Some movies, like The Hunger Games or even Divergent, have sequels because the complete story is told over three books as a trilogy. I've read both series, and each book was absolutely necessary for the overall story arc and character development to take place. Perhaps splitting one book into two movies is more about money, but the sequel itself is not solely about income.

          • Honey Badger Don't Care

            The sequels are made for money.

          • jamison

            Both Hunger Games films were lousy in my book , and badly acted and directed .

          • asdfghjk

            but not as bad as your face dude! come to think of it…If the movie was badly directed how come they earned big at the box office?… you suck BTY….. stop saying bad things about The hunger games ……(splitting the book are made for money not sequels)

    • jamison

      I don't give a darn about the box office of a film . I only care about the quality. Quality not quantity . That being said , the reviews for this film are beyond hideous . That is what will keep me away from this turd of a film.

  • blasterman

    The weekend isn't over. How do they know how much it made?

    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      It's a projection. They actually know how much a movie is gonna make on Friday afternoon.

    • Jack Bauer

      Ya it can be reviesed up or down by 1 or 2 million by Monday but they are able to track ticket sales and make very accurate projections.

  • Divergent? More like Detergent

    Divergent trying to ride off the coattails of Hunger Games, but only made 36% of what the first Hunger Games made in it's opening weekend.

    • M

      What is wrong with people…why can't this movie be its own thing? It made $56 million, no matter how you spin it that's a great opening and the franchise will continue. It wasn't the exceptional opening of THG but that's not the point. You can like THG and Divergent, or neither, but no need to pit them against each other. Why can't we just be happy that another female driven film is a hit? That's something to celebrate.

      • jamison

        M , most of these fools that are bashing Divergent's box-office are morons that are obsessed with Jennifer Lawrence .

        • Jack Bauer

          No most of them are elitist hipsters that think any movie targeted at a young audience shouldn't even be made. But are perfectly fine with comic adaptations that have the reading level of a 7 year old in their source material.

        • asdfghjk

          or morons like you, JA-MI-SON!?……you cant blame us -tributes..becoz were a fangirl…..

    • asdfghjk

      haha!… i was just thinking the same…D-E-T-E-R-G-E-N-T :)

  • Muppetlover

    The Muppets were going for overseas gross anyway. They filmed the movie in London and hired Ricky Gervais to attract an international audience.

    • Buzz

      Interesting…interpretation. Gervais is one of the most disliked celebrities in existence. WORLDWIDE.

      Come on, even Disney is admitting that the Muppets opening weekend was a disappointment. A Disney film needs lots of American money in order to succeed. This one won't. The first one didn't even do well when it came out on DVD. And Rio 2 will premiere in two weeks and steal what's left of the family audience. Kermit's a turkey.

      • Honey Badger Don't Care

        Kermit is a superstar. You go anywhere in the world, they know who Kermit is.

      • jamison

        I disagree about Rickey Gervais being the most disliked celeb worldwide .

  • rizzo51

    Summit/Lionsgate is succeeding where the other studios have failed because they're delivering good movies based on these books. If you saw MORTAL CREATURES or CITY OF BONES you'd know what I mean: those movies were awful. Teenage girls may love the source material but if you make a bad film neither they nor the uninitiated will go. I saw DIVERGENT on Friday night (and I am not the target demo). I enjoyed it very much — the two leads were good together and the script was faithful enough to the book to keep the fans happy but not alienate everyone else. I'm happy for the studio — good for them that they've figured out how to be successful in this market!

  • donald

    there is no comparison. the others are much better movies and series. “Beautiful Creatures” at least had an original and interesting premise.

  • noor

    Man I just love theo james so much and I think divergant was a HUGE success!!!
    Iwish the nwxt divergant can come out sooner and I hope that they DO NOT CHANGE THE CHATACTERS!!!! (please please please don't) anyways I just LOVED divergant I already watched it three times in tye theater! !! :-)