Hollywood is nothing if not habitual. Two years ago on this weekend, one of the biggest franchises of this decade was launched, from a young adult novel. So what to try now? Launch the next one that has any chance at all of succeeding. One franchise that's already established rides along on its coattails for what's suddenly a high powered weekend.
Weekend Forecast for March 21-23, 2014
By Reagen Sulewski
March 21, 2014
In the world of recent YA adaptations, it's The Hunger Games, Twilight, a gap you can drive an ocean liner through, then everything else. Hoping to change this fact is Divergent, which arrives in theaters this week with a huge push, a talented cast (both young and old) and a rabid fan base. It's that last item that makes this a different story than your Beautiful Creatures and your Vampire Academys, and gives it a solid chance at being a very large film indeed.
Set in a dystopic future where everyone is classified into five different factions based on personality type, sort of like if those Myers-Briggs people got their way, but decided that 16 was way too many groups to manage. Anyway, on their 16th birthdays, everyone is tested and sorted into one of these groups, because fascism. However, some people are shown to have equal ability in multiple areas, which makes them dangerous to the system somehow. They are named Divergent. The lead character of the film (played by Shailene Woodley) is one of these, and after her test she falls into one faction but works to take down the system from within. The movie looks to follow a fairly standard plot of initiating our hero through a series of trial and exposure to a vast conspiracy, mixed with some light action and romance. It's a template that's worked well for Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, and it should work well here.
In addition to Woodley, the film also boasts a cast that includes Kate Winslet (playing an outright villain for the first time, unless you go back and look at Titanic in the right light), Miles Teller, Ray Stevenson, Ashley Judd, Mekhi Phifer, and Theo James as the male lead. Reviews of the film are middling at best, with most criticizing how closely it adheres to the formula mentioned above. That's probably a plus to its target audience, who are looking for exactly what the book delivered and no more. That probably keeps it from attaining special status, but should help it along the way to a proper trilogy of movies. Target this for around $65 million this weekend.
Three years ago, the moribund Muppets franchise was brought back to life thanks to the efforts of Jason Segel, appealing largely to nostalgic Boomers and Gen Xers. That group now has kids and used that film as a gateway drug for them into the world of felt movies. Segel exits stage right for Muppets Most Wanted, which takes the Muppets into a caper plot and a whole new set of celebrity cameos.
In this sequel, Kermit is mistaken for an international thief that bares an almost exact resemblance to Kermit, except for having a mole, and is imprisoned in some sort of Eastern European hellhole prison, which could have led to a very interesting take on Midnight Express. However, it becomes a rescue mission after the rest of the Muppets figure out what's happened. Cue wacky humor and musical numbers, everything we've come to expect from these films. On board as flesh and blood actors are Tina Fey, Ty Burrell and Ricky Gervais.
Most Wanted does not look to be quite the equal of the revamped Muppets, but in contrast, it's also benefiting from being more of a known quantity. Last time out it needed to re-earn our trust after a decade or so of terrible movies. That said, the trailers are uninspiring and the notion that we've all got to support the team just isn't there anymore. I'd look for an opening weekend of about $25 million here.
The family film market will have a couple of choices, with Mr. Peabody and Sherman having claimed top spot in its second week, outlasting the 300 sequel and a few newcomers. Other than both starring Burrell, these have little in common, as Muppets pitches a little older. It's already proven to have good legs as well, and should hold to around $14 million this weekend.
300: Rise of an Empire fell like a stone in its second weekend, surprising exactly no one, but with over $80 million in the bank already, no one is actually complaining. Action movies, and action sequels especially, just don't hold well. Watch it drop to around $10 million this frame.
Need For Speed, the attempt to build a new Fast and Furious franchise, just didn't sell despite a huge press during the Super Bowl. A big mistake may have been selling the cars versus selling the movie, which failed to attract anyone outside the core audience for car films. It couldn't help but feel like a stale retread, and should fall to about $7 million.
That's about the same figure that Non-Stop should see in its fourth weekend, as Liam Neeson's latest ass-kicking aims for $100 million domestic.
Expanding significantly is The Grand Budapest Hotel, which opened to a gaudy $55,000 per screen average last weekend, making the top ten on just 66 screens. Jumping to around 300, it should hit $5 million this weekend.