Divergent Rises While Muppets Fall
By John Hamann
March 23, 2014
God may or may not be dead, but The Muppets are certainly in trouble at the box office this weekend.
$69 million. That’s the number I want you to remember. That’s the amount the original Twilight opened to in 2008. What came between means nothing. Divergent, the hot, new YA property opened this weekend, looking for an original Twilight-style opening. On top of that, The Muppets are back, looking to find the magic that got the reboot to open to $29 million a couple of years ago. Instead, the discussion this weekend will be that two films featuring the word God are in the top 12, that Noah is coming next weekend, and yet the faith-based crowd is still under-served.
Our number one film at the box office this weekend is Divergent, the much hyped franchise hopeful for Lionsgate, and a bellwether for their stock price. Based on the 2011 Veronica Roth young adult novel, Lionsgate was looking to manufacture a new Twilight/Hunger Games franchise. The goal for the weekend was to open in the area of Twilight ($69.8 million), the film that started the YA movement (anybody comparing this to The Hunger Games should have their head checked). After getting off to a strong start on Thursday night with a gross of $4.9 million, an opening in the $60 million range was possible, but in order for that to happen, the film would need those legions of Twi-hards to show up over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the weekend. The Lionsgate stock fell $2.35 or 8% after the Thursday night number was reported, as investors might have been spooked by the lower-than-expected number. If they were using Twilight as their basis of comparison, the vampire film did $7 million from midnight previews in 2008.
The Friday box office number was reported at $22.8 million, and if that was true Friday number, would likely be enough to get Divergent to open where Lionsgate wanted it to, in the high 60s. However, in these days of Thursday night previews, we have to remove the $4.9 million from the $22.8 million figure, leaving a true Friday take of $17.9 million. While still strong, it is not enough to propel Divergent ahead of the first Twilight. As stated, Twilight did $7 million in midnight showings – not "Thursday night screenings" - and had a true Friday of $29 million, numbers that were significantly stronger than those of Divergent, despite opening in November 2008.
Following that somewhat disappointing Friday, Divergent now had to deal with the rest of the weekend and a concern about further wilting returns. When Twilight opened, its strongest day by far was Friday night at $29 million. It then dipped to $21 million Saturday and plummeted on Sunday to $12.4 million. With Divergent, a somewhat similar scenario ensued, though the new film's Saturday was stronger. The Neil Burger film followed its decent Friday with a $19.7 million Saturday gross and an estimated $13.6 million on Sunday. That puts the weekend figure for Divergent at $56 million from 3,936 venues. The opening for this one becomes neither a success story nor a failure. Instead, it is something that is even worse in today’s movie business: a movie that failed to meet expectations. Tracking for Divergent was calling for a $60 million plus opening, and Lionsgate stockholders were looking for the almost $70 million open that Twilight saw. This debut is certainly enough to keep this franchise going forward (Insurgent begins filming in May), but not enough to create a buzz to make the second film explode, like The Twilight Saga: New Moon, or The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Lionsgate spent too much time “making” success for Divergent, and they forgot they need to “find” success.