Box Office: 'Divergent' Tops Friday With $22.8 Million; 'Muppets 2' Off-Kilter

New Christian film "God's Not Dead" is doing solid business, while Lars von Trier's unrated sexual opus "Nymphomaniac" struggles at specialty box office.

Summit Entertainment's latest YA offering Divergent easily topped the Friday box office with $22.8 million for an expected weekend gross in the $53 million to $54 million range.

While that won't match the first Twilight or The Hunger Games, Divergent is enjoying the second-best start of the year after The Lego Movie, which debuted to $69 million.

Divergent -- starring Shailene Woodley in the title role -- earned a promising A CinemaScore overall, and an A+ among moviegoers under the age of 18. According to Summit, females made up 60 percent of Friday's audience.

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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.

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.

Among the weekend's other new offerings, Disney's Muppets Most Wanted is proving a major disappointment, thanks in part to a saturated market for family titles. The sequel, facing competition from holdovers Mr. Peabody & Sherman and Lego Movie, may not crack $18 million in its domestic launch after earning $4.7 million on Friday. The first Muppets grossed $41 million over the Thanksgiving holiday, including $29 million for the weekend.

Muppets Most Wanted is holding at No. 2, followed by Peabody, which grossed $2.7 million on Friday for a projected $11 million-plus weekend.

James Bobin returns to direct the $54 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 placed No. 4 on Friday with $2.8 million, on par with fellow Christian film Fireproof.

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God's Not Dead is expected to gross $8 million for the weekend from 780 locations, putting it in a close race with holdover 300: Rise of an Empire.

Based on the book of the same name by Rice Broocks and Daniel Bashta's song "Like a Lion," 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.

Struggling at the specialty box office is Lars von Trier's unrated sexual opus Nymphomaniac: Volume I. Playing in 22 theaters in top cities, the movie is expected to take in roughly $119,000 for the weekend for an unimpressive theater average of $5,400.