Lionsgate may have one mega-franchise ending in "Twilight," but the studio reassured investors and analysts Friday that it has already unearthed the next big thing in young adult entertainment.
The way it plans to keep cash registers ringing through 2014 lies with "Divergent," a series of novels by Veronica Roth aimed at tweens and set in a futuristic dystopia. Book sales are tracking ahead of where "Twilight" and Lionsgate's other major franchise "The Hunger Games" were at a similar point in their life cycles, Lionsgate executives said during the company's second-quarter conference call. Moreover, the fan base for the novels is a passionate one.
"We’re putting it out to our fans right now that we think this is the next big franchise," Lionsgate Chief Executive Officer Jon Feltheimer said.
"Divergent" will star Shailene Woodley, the beautiful and youthful actress who turned heads in last year's "The Descendants." Neil Burger ("Limitless") will direct the story of a young girl who rebels against her repressive society.
The film is set to open on March 21,2014, roughly the same slot where "The Hunger Games" opened earlier this year. The timing, Feltheimer said, is wholly intentional.
"By putting it, frankly, in the original 'Hunger Games' time slot, we’re indicating the amount of support we have," he said.
Though Lionsgate and Summit, the studio it purchased for $412.5 million earlier this year, are readying for the end of "Twilight," there are still profits on the horizon from the vampire franchise. "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2" hits theaters next week and Feltheimer said that advance ticket sales are ahead of where they were for the previous film in the series.
Anticipating the taste of teenagers helped propel Lionsgate to a remarkable third quarter. Thanks to strong home entertainment sales from "The Hunger Games," the studio reported second-quarter profits of $75.5 million, while revenue jumped 97 percent to $707 million.