“Divergent,” the big-screen adaptation of Veronica Roth‘s best-selling novel, debuted to $4.9 million in Thursday late nights screenings, a figure large enough for Lionsgate to greenlight a sequel.
“We’re off to a great start with strong numbers from all regions of the country, urban, suburban and rural alike,” Lionsgate chief executive officer Jon Feltheimer said in a statement. “We’re confident that ‘Divergent’ is on its way to becoming another important franchise for us, and we have just greenlit the second film, ‘Insurgent.'”
Lionsgate always envisioned “Divergent” as the first film in a franchise. Last December, the studio announced planned release dates for future films in what it hopes will one day become a trilogy. “Insurgent” is expected to hit theaters on March 20, 2015, while the third installment, “Allegiant,” would debut on March 18, 2016.
Analysts expect “Divergent” will rack up between $55 million to $60 million at the weekend box office, good enough for first place, but short of the openings of previous young adult franchises such as “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games.” In comparison to “Divergent,” “The Hunger Games”opened to $19.74 million in Thursday showings while “Twilight” bowed to $7 million in its late-night debut.
Presales for the film have been strong: Fandango reports that it is currently accounting for 80 percent of weekend ticket sales. Filmed for a relatively economical $80 million, “Divergent” should be able to turn a profit for its studio, although its Thursday opening night numbers were softer than some box office watchers had predicted.
The film stars Shailene Woodley and Theo James and has been marred by lackluster reviews. It currently has a 40 percent rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with some critics faulting the film and its vision of a dystopian future for being overly derivative.
“Divergent” will go head to head with “Muppets Most Wanted,” a sequel to 2012’s family hit, “The Muppets.”