Box Office: 'Divergent' Won't Match First 'Twilight' But Still Strong

Summit Entertainment's Divergent won't reach the heights of Twilight or The Hunger Games, but is still doing strong business in its North American debut.

Based on Friday returns, the movie is poised to earn $53 million or more for the weekend, the second-best opening of 2013 behind The Lego Movie, which debuted to north of $69 million.

Divergent -- starring Shailene Woodley in the title role -- could come in higher if traffic is unusually strong on Saturday (rival box office observers remain divided in terms of the movie's potential). Pre-release tracking had suggested it would cross $60 million in its domestic launch, but that appears unlikely in either case.

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Neil Burger directed the $85 million sci-fi adventure, based on the best-selling book series by Veronica Roth about a young woman who poses a threat to society after failing to fit into one of five strictly controlled factions.

Summit is certainly well versed in selling YA adaptations, being the home of the Twilight franchise. And its parent company, Lionsgate, is the studio behind The Hunger Games.

On Friday, Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer promoted Divergent's strong Thursday night start of $4.9 million in a bid to woo Wall Street. "We're confident that Divergent is on its way to becoming another important franchise for us, and we have just greenlighted the second film, Insurgent," he said.

In November 2008, the first Twilight debuted domestically to $69.6 million; four years later, The Hunger Games opened to a massive $152.5 million, one of the biggest openings of all time. While primarily fueled by younger families, both movies managed to appeal to other demos as well, especially older females. Divergent, however, may not have the same crossover potential and could be hurt among adults by poor reviews.

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Theo James, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer and Kate Winslet also star in Divergent. The film won't begin rolling out internationally in earnest until April 4.

Divergent has every shot at being a win overall for Summit and producers Douglas Wick, Lucy Fisher and Pouya Shahbazian. And it will certainly command the top spot at the domestic box office, where its nearest competition will be Disney's family sequel Muppets Most Wanted.

Muppets Most Wanted -- facing a saturated market for family fare, including recent entry Mr. Peabody & Sherman -- could have trouble hitting $20 million in its debut. That's well behind the $41 million, five-day debut of The Muppets over Thanksgiving in 2011, including a three-day take of $29 million.

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James Bobin returns to direct the $50 million Muppets sequel, with Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell and Tina Fey replacing Jason Segel and Amy Adams as the live-action leads. This time out, Kermit and the gang find themselves lured into an international crime caper while on tour in Europe. Muppets Most Wanted has earned solid-to-good reviews, compared to stellar notices for The Muppets.

Also opening nationwide, although on a much smaller scale, is Christian drama God's Not Dead. From Pure Flix Entertainment, the movie is playing in nearly 800 locations and is based on the book of the same name by Rice Broocks and Daniel Bashta's song "Like a Lion."

The film is expected to gross north of $7 million for the weekend, in line with such faith-baed films as Fireproof.

God's Not Dead stars Shane Harper as a college student whose philosophy professor forces him to sign a declaration that "God is dead." When the student refuses, he's ordered to prove his position that God exists in a series of debates. Directed by Harold Cronk, the indie movie also stars Kevin Sorbo, Jim Gleason, David A.R. White and Dean Cain.

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