Divergent Rises While Muppets Fall
By John Hamann
March 23, 2014
Why did Divergent open more like Scooby-Doo ($54.2 million) and less like Twilight, which when adjusting for inflation opened to $81 million? My impression is that anyone outside of the target audience didn’t buy a ticket for Divergent. I would estimate that theaters were packed with teenagers, but anyone above the drinking age was at home (they certainly weren’t at the second Muppets film – no one was). Reviews were not great, which killed word of mouth. At Rotten Tomatoes, Divergent captured 132 reviews, and of those, only 53 were positive, leading to a rotten rating of 40%. Not only were reviews tepid, the look and feel of the marketing seemed to exclude adults, as the only actor most adults recognized was Kate Winslet, who was barely featured in the marketing materials, and she's only there as the villain. We went to the first Hunger Games because Woody Harrelson was in it, and we could connect with him.
The good news for Lionsgate is that the target audience liked what they saw, as Divergent did manage an A Cinemascore, albeit from teen girls that attended opening nights with their signed hardcopy of the book clutched in their anticipatory arms. They could have switched the print with God’s Not Dead and still got an A. Divergent cost $80 million to make, which isn’t a stupid amount, but one where you need to provide your film with strong scheduling. That didn’t happen with Divergent, as it will get creamed by Noah next weekend, and then bashed the weekend after when Captain America: The Winter Soldier shows up. Lionsgate will be lucky to pull $125 million from this one stateside, so it will need to earn at least $110 million overseas to find a profit. These numbers are doable, but at the end of the day, they are clearly disappointing, no matter how you slice it.
Finishing second this weekend is our next disappointment, Muppets Most Wanted. Cast as a $20 million plus opener, the sequel to the 2011 reboot did not come close to expectations or the original. Muppets Most Wanted got started on Friday, earning only $4.7 million, or about $7.5 million less than the first Friday for the reboot, which opened on a Wednesday. The weekend result was $16.5 million, a number much lower than tracking was expecting. Disney put the sequel out 3,194 screens, and ended the weekend with a venue average of $5,170. It had a weekend multiplier of 3.5, which tells us that families were the big audience for this one rather than the all-ages crowd attracted by The Muppets.
This time out, instead of a sing along about re-discovering Muppet Magic with Amy Adams and Jason Segel, we got a slapstick comedy featuring a Kermit lookalike and a Miss Piggy duet with creature of the night Celine Dion. While the comedians involved are of the highest variety (Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell), the "niceness" of the first one seemed to be gone. Adults were no longer rediscovering their youth, and I believe that’s the difference in the opening weekends. Muppets Most Wanted received okay reviews – 77% fresh at RottenTomatoes – but nowhere near the love letters received for the reboot, which came in at 96% fresh.