The cinematic grab bag that is March continues as we’re a week away from what was supposed to be the biggest release of Q1 before Deadpool kinda ruined things for everybody (in a totally awesome way, of course).
Weekend Box Office Forecast for March 18-20, 2016
By Tim Briody
March 18, 2016
The big release this weekend is The Divergent Series: Allegiant. This is the third film in the young adult fiction series. A series that, as we have frequently reminded you, consists of three books but four movies. More on that in a moment.
The setting for Allegiant remains the same as Divergent and Insurgent: a futuristic dystopia where Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) are now dealing with the fallout of the events of the first two books/movies, and also setting up the events of the fourth movie so you’ll definitely have to buy tickets to both.
As a final reminder (at least until the next film is released when we may all point and laugh), shortly after Divergent became a hit in 2014, Lionsgate announced the remaining two books in the trilogy would be turned into films, with the final book being split into two parts. Hey, it worked for Harry Potter. It also worked for Twilight. They also tried to do it with The Hunger Games and then the cracks began to show, as Mockingjay Part 1 earned a full 20% less than Catching Fire and Part 2 earned $55 million less than Part 1. The Divergent series, although it has its fans, is clearly not on the level of the previously mentioned franchises, which is why what they’re doing here is Bad Idea Jeans and something we’ve incessantly mocked since the moment it was announced.
Audiences are becoming considerably more savvy and catching on to the idea of paying for two tickets for what’s essentially one movie, with the first one simply setting up the second. I don’t blame the A-list franchises for using this tactic at all, but when we’re getting to the second tier material, it’s going to be a recipe for disaster. And in a sign that Lionsgate already regrets this decision, here’s an interesting fact: this exact weekend has seen the release of all the Divergent films so far, which makes it logical that the fourth entry (titled Ascendent, by the way, not Allegiant Part 2, thankfully) would see release on this same weekend in 2017. However, they have actually moved it to June, meaning not only are they making the diehard fans wait more than a year before they get to see the resolution of the series, but the film Lionsgate has opted to release on this weekend next year is the Power Rangers reboot. Yes, this has actually happened.
While Divergent was a solid performer on this weekend two years ago, opening to $54.6 million and finishing with $150.9 million, Insurgent saw an essentially flat opening of $52.2 million but a final total of $130.1 million, which is cause for concern. Additionally, while never a favorite of critics, the reviews of the films in the franchise have gone from “below average” to “outright bad,” with Allegiant currently rating 11% at Rotten Tomatoes. The target audience doesn’t really care about that, but as shown with Insurgent’s performance, prevents the franchise from expanding its audience as well as having the potential to scare off those who may not have loved the first two movies. Taking all of this into account, I expect diminishing returns to set in further, and am looking for a weekend of $37 million for Allegiant.
Faith-based film Miracles From Heaven saw a Wednesday release, earning $1.8 million. Based on a true story, it stars Jennifer Garner as the mother of a chronically ill child who was miraculously cured of her ailment via a freak accident. It’s a wonderful story, for sure, and Sony is definitely has faith in it by giving it 3,000 screens on the weekend, but the faith-based genre is not performing well right now, as there has not been a true hit since both God’s Not Dead and Heaven Is For Real (the film that is perhaps the best comparison here) in 2014. I’d look for a total of about $9 million on the weekend, and $11.8 million in five days.
Lastly, The Bronze, written by and starring Melissa Rauch (The Big Bang Theory), is getting a minor release of 1,100 theaters. It’s the story of a one time 3rd place medalist (thus the title) in gymnastics who has since cashed it in for a life of small town fame and all the free meals that can bring. When her minor celebrity is threatened by an up and coming (and considerably more talented) local gymnast, she sets out to maintain the status quo. The Bronze played at Sundance…in 2015 and is just seeing a token release now. Cited by critics as aggressively unfunny and mean, Rauch isn’t a big enough name (as much as we love Bernadette) to matter in theaters and the screen count doesn’t help. Give it $3 million on the weekend.
10 Cloverfield Lane was the only relevant new release of last weekend, earning a solid $24.7 million as viewers tried to figure out exactly what its connection to the original Cloverfield was, if any. Word-of-mouth may carry it to an okay hold against some generally weak competition, as a second weekend of around $12 million seems fine.
Zootopia goes for the threepeat at the top spot before Batman vs. Superman takes over next weekend. It only shed a third of its opening weekend as it has cruised past $150 million in just two weeks in theaters. With another 30% decline for Zootopia, it’s going to be a tight race between it and Allegiant, and the winner largely depends on how much Allegiant underperforms expectations. I'm projecting Allegiant to win the weekend, but if it were Zootopia I absolutely would not be surprised. Zootopia looks for a third weekend of $35.9 million.