Weekend Box Office: 'Divergent' Crushed 'The Muppets'

The latest YA adaptation looking to capitalize on the success of Twilight and The Hunger Games, Divergent, from Lionsgate, earned $56 million in domestic box office over the weekend. According to my calculations, that’s approximately one dollar for every press release they emailed me about it. To get the YA comparisons out of the way right off the bat, Divergent‘s opening was 20 percent less than Twilight‘s opening ($69.6m), not quite a third of The Hunger Games ($152.5m), and about seven times as much as Vampire Academy‘s entire gross ($7.76m). In fact, it’s already made more than the combined total of Beautiful Creatures, The Host, and Vampire Academy. Probably because those didn’t have an Independent Spirit Award playing the lead.

Presuming it doesn’t completely crash-and-burn, it should cross $100m next weekend, which is about where Lionsgate starts making money. The film cost $85m to produce, but much of the budget was covered via foreign pre-sales.  This victory belongs to Lionsgate marketing alone. [Forbes]

According to reports, only about half the audience had read the book, compared to 74 percent for Twilight and 76 for The Hunger Games. Kids these days. Nonetheless, 18-year-olds gave it an A+ Cinemascore, so I’ll be sure to try to look interested when one of my dates tells me what it’s about. Personally, I decided to skip it once I heard Foreigner wasn’t recording a theme song. Di-vergent, vergent… e-mergency…

Elsewhere, it’s a good thing Muppets are used to getting fisted, because Muppets Most Wanted only scared up $16.5 million (sorry, I’m working on my Monday morning puns). It was well off from the last Muppet movie’s $29.2 million back in 2011. It didn’t seem like they advertised it that much, but it could just be that Geico has already bought up 87 percent of the country’s total advertising. It looks unlikely that it will earn back its $50 million budget.

Meanwhile, playing on just 780 screens (compared to 3936 for Divergent and 3194 for Muppets), “God’s Not Dead,” starring Dean Cain and Kevin Sorbo, with a cameo by one of the Duck Dynasty dudes, earned a respectable $8.64 million. I believe the full title was “God’s Not Dead and Dean Cain and Kevin Sorbo Are Still Alive.”

The picture, about a college student challenged by his professor to prove the existence of God, scored a dynamite $8.56 million weekend. That’s along the lines of the $9.1m debut of Courageous in 2011 and the $6.7m debut of Kirk Cameron’s Fireproof in 2008. The opening weekend was partially fueled by churches and religious groups buying out theaters (that’s par for the course and yes audiences do fill those seats), and it will probably end up around $30m. These films have a clear audience, but with very little cross-over potential. The next one of its kind is the April 11th Greg Kinnear-led drama Heaven Is For Real from Tri-Star. That film’s “young boy recounts his near-death experience” may be less appealing to the “War on Christmas” demographic (a portion of the audience for these films) than a film where secular educators challenge the existence of a higher power.

As for the film, there aren’t too many reviews, but Roger Moore of McClatchy called it “the angriest faith-based film in recent memory.” I dunno, man, Kirk Cameron seemed pretty angry when he beat up his computer for showing him porn in Fireproof.

Believers here are outnumbered, a persecuted, righteous and intellectually rigorous minority — i.e. “Duck Dynasty” stars, or viewers.
Non-believers run the gamut from fascist, bullying college professors to an abusive Muslim who would rather beat his child than let her study the Christian Bible, from Godless Chinese who fear government persecution to “ambush” journalists out to “get” those God-fearing “Duck Dynasty” millionaires.

That’s a shame. Nothing against the church-movie crowd (at the very least, they’re keeping Kevin Sorbo off the streets), but I prefer the religious messages that are more about being a good dude than this persecution complex stuff. I’m hoping they go for the soft sell in the next installment, “God’s Not Dead: He’s Just Chillin’,” starring Jeff Bridges and Larry the Cable Guy, which I’m currently writing. I’m hoping it will to appeal every demographic, except for squinty goddamned Godless Chinamen, who can go straight to hell.