LOS ANGELES - Any talk of a curse on young adult film franchises was put on hold last weekend with the estimated $54.6 million opening for Divergent, the first adaptation from a series of novels by Veronica Roth, while Muppets Most Wanted underperformed and God’s Not Dead surprised some with a strong turnout from faith-based audiences.
Directed by Neil Burger and starring Shailene Woodley, Divergent tells the story of a young woman fighting for freedom and survival in a dystopian society. After a string of young-adult novel adaptations that has included some big hits along with many big misses, there was curiosity as to whether Divergent would be the next Hunger Games or the next Mortal Instruments.
Divergent solidly met expectations without exceeding them. By comparison, the first Hunger Games film opened at more than $152 million in March 2012, and the sequel, Catching Fire, opened in November to $158 million and went on to be the top film at the box office last year.
A sequel to Divergent, titled Insurgent, is scheduled to begin filming in May and to be released next March.
Summit, which is owned by Lionsgate, has another follow-up, Allegiant, in the works for 2016.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman was third, taking in $11.8 million, for a three-week domestic total of $81 million. 300: Rise of an Empire grossed more than $8.5 million, for a three-week total of $93.5 million at No. 5.
In second place last weekend was Muppets Most Wanted, which took in an estimated $17 million - far short of when The Muppets relaunched the venerable series on Thanksgiving weekend in 2011 to the tune of $29 million. James Bobin directed both films, but Most Wanted featured new lead actors in Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was God’s Not Dead, coming in at No. 4 with an estimated gross of $9 million on just 780 screens. The faith-based film, about a college student defending his beliefs against a professor, features Kevin Sorbo, Dean Cain, Willie and Korie Robertson from the Duck Dynasty television show as themselves, and the popular Christian rock group Newsboys.
“We knew the possibility was there,” said David A.R. White, a producer as well as star of the film and also a partner in the faith-based film studio Pure Flix. White noted that interest in the film had been building since a trailer was released online last fall, stoked by screenings for some 8,000 pastors across the country.
The film will likely expand to at least 1,000 screens this weekend, he said.
“A lot of the message that we send is that when you go out and buy a ticket, you’re casting your vote as to the type of entertainment you want to see on a regular basis,” White said. He added that Pure Flix does not see its relationship to mainstream Hollywood as adversarial but rather simply letting the audience decide if they want more of this, and they clearly do.
Also noteworthy in the U.S. top 10: Need for Speed fell 56 percent to finish sixth at the box office, with $7.9 million; and The Grand Budapest Hotel climbed to seventh, with $6.7 million in its slow roll-out nationwide.
MovieStyle, Pages 32 on 03/28/2014
Print Headline: Divergent brings home the bacon