Box-Office Preview: 'Divergent' Eyes Strong $60 Million-Plus North American Debut

"Muppets Most Wanted" is set to take the No. 2 spot with a $25 million-plus launch; Lars von Trier's unrated sexual opus "Nymphomaniac" rolls out in 25 theaters, while Christian film "God's Not Dead" opens in nearly 800 locations.

Thanks to soaring interest among younger females, Summit Entertainment's Divergent could cross $60 million in its North American debut. While that won't match Summit's Twilight and Lionsgate's The Hunger Games, it will break the curse that has plagued nearly every other YA film adaptation and provide a strong launch for what's a planned franchise.

Neil Burger directed the $85 million sci-fi adventure, which begins rolling out in thousands of theaters Thursday night before expanding into a total of 3,900 locations on Friday, including nearly 350 Imax locations. Based on the best-selling book series by Veronica Roth, Divergent stars Shailene Woodley as a young woman who poses a threat to society after failing to fit into one of five strictly controlled factions.

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. The film won't begin rolling out internationally in earnest until April 4.

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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.

Still, 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, launching in more than 3,100 theaters amid competition from other family films, including Mr. Peabody & Sherman, is tracking to open between $25 million and $30 million. The Muppets grossed $29 million on its first weekend, but had the advantage of opening over Thanksgiving (launching on a Wednesday, it earned just north of $41 million in its first five days). 

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 will be playing in roughly 800 locations and is based on the book of the same name by Rice Broocks and Daniel Bashta's song "Like a Lion."

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God's Not Dead, hoping to wow the faith-based crowd, 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.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Lars von Trier's sexually charged Nymphomaniac: Volume One finally hits theaters after an exclusive VOD offering. The movie -- which is being released unrated after earning an NC-17 rating -- will launch in 25 U.S. theaters in select cities, including New York and Los Angeles.

The two-part movie stars Charlotte Gainsbourg, Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgard, Stacy Martin, Jamie Bell, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman and Willem Dafoe. When promoting the movie at the Berlin Film Festival in February, LaBeouf made headlines around the globe by storming out of a press conference, followed by wearing a paper bag on his head on the red carpet.

Nymphomaniac has been struggling theatrically in Europe, where the director's films perform the best. Magnolia is handling the U.S. release.

Among other new specialty offerings, Samuel Goldwyn Films opens Anita, the documentary about Anita Hill, while Roadside Attractions launches Blood Ties in 28 theaters.

Wes Anderson's box-office hit The Grand Budapest Hotel expands into a total of 304 theaters in its third weekend after already earning nearly $6 million for Fox Searchlight.