Allegiant Franchise Crumbling; Zootopia Remains Strong
By John Hamann
March 20, 2016
The Jenga puzzle that is the Divergent franchise is missing a few key pieces this weekend - about $20 million worth.
Welcome to the pre-Batman v Superman weekend at the box office, as Warner Bros. hopes all films shrivel and die so that their superhero battle flick can slide into the vacuum and break some records in the next frame. Lambs to the slaughter this weekend include the latest in the Divergent Series, Allegiant, the third film in a four film franchise that is either losing money or barely breaking even - so far. Also opening this weekend, with relatively better success, is the much smaller Miracles from Heaven. Miracles is the third faith-based wide release this year, following Risen and The Young Messiah, two films that struggled at the box office. Lastly, Sony Classics throws a charity release at The Bronze, the dark gymnastics comedy with Big Bang Theory's Melissa Rauch. The story of the weekend - again - is Zootopia, Disney's extremely leggy animated feature.
Had Allegiant opened in the same $50 million ballpark as the other Divergent films, it would be number one this weekend, but as this column predicted last weekend, the third film in the series is a bit of a mess (despite having Part 2 already in pre-production). Allegiant's failure opens the door for the third weekend at number one for Zootopia from Walt Disney Pictures, a film that is becoming a box office story for the ages. The critically adored toon got its weekend started with $9.6 million on Friday, a drop of only 20% from its previous Friday. The LEGO Movie, a film that opened similarly to Zootopia, fell 43% Friday-to-Friday in its third weekend, Big Hero 6 fell 44%, and Finding Nemo 31%. Zootopia even beat Frozen's third Friday-to-Friday hold, which came in at 24%. After setting records for opening, I thought Zootopia might settle quickly, but we are seeing the complete opposite, and it still has a month to play without any direct competition.
Over the weekend, Zootopia kept its pace up and finished the weekend with $38 million from 3,959 venues. It's the biggest third weekend ever for an animated film, beating Shrek 2's $37.9 million, and is now playing at similar levels as some of the biggest films ever. Zootopia crossed the $200 million mark on Sunday, its 17th day of release, and now has a domestic take of $201.8 million. $300 million is now a given, but it will be interesting to see what kind of squeeze Batman v Superman puts on it, if any.
Worldwide, Zootopia is turning its run into World War Z. The overseas gross has now reached an awesome $389.9 million, as it cracked the $500 million worldwide mark on Friday. It hit a few more international markets this weekend, and next weekend opens in the UK and Hong Kong. Zootopia needed every cent, as the NY Times reports it cost an estimated $150 million to make, which means a worldwide profit of about $450 million would be needed for profitability. The worldwide gross has now hit $591.7 million, so the dollars remaining are gravy for Disney, and they still have Moana to come in November. Moana is from the team that brought us The Little Mermaid and Aladdin and stars The Rock, and is another animated feature that could make big waves at the box office.
Finishing second this weekend is Allegiant, part 3.5 of The Divergent Series. The latest piece of hurt for Lionsgate got started on Thursday, earning a weaker-than-expected $2.35 million from Thursday previews. Things got worse on Friday, as the combined Thursday/Friday came in at only $11.9 million, almost 50% behind the opening days of the first two films: $22.8 million for Divergent and $21.1 million for Insurgent. This is an ugly result for Lionsgate, as this one cost $110 million to make, which means it likely needs $330 million worldwide for Lionsgate shareholders to benefit. Additionally, having the stench of failure on Allegiant does not bode well for the next film, Somethingant, and weakens the overall franchise as well.