This weekend’s battle had a clear winner. The latest Young Adult (YA) genre based film Divergent finally got the “young adult” on its side to erase the scars of wannabes like Beautiful Creatures, The Host and this year’s Vampire Academy, to name but just a few. The studios’ elusive hunt to find the next Twilight has been on for long, and the discovery of The Hunger Games alone has not been enough, and so finally we get another winner in Divergent (all the three have been distributed by Lionsgate studio). The movie had a strong $56 million opening weekend in North America which is the second best for the year so far, behind The Lego Movie ($69 million). Divergent is also a rare case in today’s times for a potential blockbuster to be released first in the USA and then taken globally; so there are no foreign earnings yet to ponder over. As far as the domestic opening is concerned, it is a solid start, though overseas collections would play a big role in deciding the studio’s profits, considering that the budget of the film has not been too tiny at $85 million. Add to that the strong marketing campaign. So a theatrical run above $300 million worldwide is what the filmmakers would be hoping for, which should be achievable. Sequels have already been in the works, Insurgent and Allegiant, based on the next two novels in this series written by Veronica Roth.
So how well does Divergent compare with the other two heavyweights in the YA category, Twilight series and The Hunger Games franchise? We draw comparisons with the first movie of each of these franchises.
This is where we can understand why Twilight and The Hunger Games are worth being called “heavyweights”. Divergent which has opened to good numbers, is actually 20% off the opening weekend that Twilight had opened to; the rest of the movies in the Twilight franchise in fact opened to much grander numbers than the 2008 release. And it is not even close to the smashing and unforgettable opening that The Hunger Games had; here too the sequel opened with stronger earnings. To add to that, the production budget of Divergent is marginally higher than The Hunger Games, but more than twice that of Twilight. So maybe we still have not found the next sensational YA film, but Divergent is as close as it comes to building a franchise with, and if the wave picks up in the foreign markets, especially a place like China, then it could be another grand success for Lionsgate after all.
So while Lionsgate would be cheering the opening of Divergent, Disney would be pretty disappointed with the sequel to 2011’s The Muppets titled Muppets Most Wanted. With a sequel, in which you are not cutting down on the budgets, the least you are expecting is an opening in the range of the original, if not more. Well, compared to the $29 million first weekend domestic opening of The Muppets, the sequel Muppets Most Wanted had a rather lame $16.5 million opening. Almost half of the original. The Muppets had made close to $89 million domestically and $77 million in foreign markets; to summarise, it wasn’t a sensation by any stretch of the imagination. Why a sequel, we wonder. With the mild domestic opening, much should not be expected from Muppets Most Wanted in the foreign markets too, and the studios would be lucky if they could get their $50 million production budget and the additional marketing costs back. If they indeed somehow do, could we have a third releasing directly to DVD?
One of the surprise stories of the weekend was the faith based film God’s Not Dead. With a limited release in 780 theatres alone, the movie earned a sensational $8.5 million. The fact that it follows so soon behind the success of Son of God (which has earned an unexpected $56 million in North America) should throw an idea in the heads of the studio executives that there is further space here for more movies. Religion or faith based movies have been few and far in between, and if one could hit the right note on this topic, then there is an audience waiting, as these two success stories of this year prove.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman and 300: Rise of an Empire make up the top five on the box-office charts. The latter is just a week away from becoming the latest film to touch $100 million mark domestically, and is already doing great overseas with an additional $195 million so far; soon it should be usurping the overseas earnings of its predecessor, which would probably get the machinery working on a third film. Need for Speed had a sharp drop of 56% in its second weekend, which adds up to a disappointing tally of $30 million at home. But it seems there are other takers for fast cars, as the film is close to clocking $100 million in foreign markets. China itself has contributed close to $42 million in earnings, which is higher than the North America tally for the film; a strange statistic which is no longer that rare, and maybe that day is not far away when the Hollywood executives would be wooing the Chinese before the Americans, eh!?
Here are the top 5 weekend earners at the US box-office (estimates):
1. Divergent ($56.0 million)
2. Muppets Most Wanted ($16.5 million)
3. Mr. Peabody & Sherman ($11.7 million; third weekend)
4. 300: Rise of an Empire ($8.7 million; third weekend)
5. God’s Not Dead ($8.6 million)