March 22, 2014

EARLY FRIDAY BOX OFFICE: “Divergent” and “Muppets” Underperform; “God’s Not Dead” A Sleeper


It’s clear, based on preliminary numbers at Deadline, that DIVERGENT (Summit/Lionsgate) isn’t going to reach prerelease hopes of an opening in line with the $69M of the original Twilight, much less that movie’s sequels or The Hunger Games.  The question is how low it will go.  Divergent had around $22M on Friday (which includes $4.9M from Thursday night).  The projections bouncing around as of late Friday night for a $53-55M weekend assume a 2.5x weekend multiple, which would make sense for a standard opening–but movies aimed at young female audiences are very often tremendously frontloaded.  So far, Divergent is following the pattern of Twilight but at a lower level.  The 2008 vampire romance had a $36M Friday (including $7M from Thursday night), but then dropped 41% on Saturday and didn’t even double its opening day for the full weekend, and its sequels behaved similarly.  Even the Hunger Games movies, which had much better reviews to drive word of mouth, had just 2.25x weekend multiples.  Based on that, Divergent may only reach $45-50M for the weekend, and very possibly on the low end of that range.  That would still be a success, assuming a similar or higher overseas result, but it wouldn’t be an extraordinary one, and it would be an unsteady base for the 2 sequels still to come.

Also underperforming:  MUPPETS MOST WANTED (Disney), which made $4.8M on Friday and, even with a Saturday family matinee bump, may not get beyond $18M for the weekend.  That’s a major disappointment after the $29.2M earned by 2011’s The Muppets over the Fri-Sun of Thanksgiving weekend–after already having made $12.3M on Wed-Thurs.  Most Wanted wasn’t hugely expensive, and it’ll pay its way with merchandising, etc (although Muppets was quite weak overseas, not even equaling its US total), but it’s far from a hit.  (Excuses for Muppets’ blah results that pin the blame on the third weekend of Mr. Peabody and Sherman, itself just a moderate success, are bending themselves excruciatingly backwards to avoid offending Disney.)

With all the big-studio blues, it took a sign from the heavens for some good news.  That came via the bluntly-titled GOD’S NOT DEAD (Freestyle), which made $2.8M in just 780 theatres.  Religious movies tend to have very strong Sunday performance, so it could have $8M+ by Sunday–however, the genre tends to be frontloaded into opening weekend, so its run may not last very long, especially with the quasi-spiritual (albeit somewhat controversial) Noah opening next week.  Still, a great result for a movie with a small budget and hardly any marketing costs.

On the secular end of things, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Fox Searchlight) expanded to 304 theatres with a superb $1.7M on Friday that could give it close to $6M for the weekend and a $20K per-theatre average.  That would be double the average Moonrise Kingdom had at 395 theatres, and almost double the average for 12 Years A Slave when it was at 410.

MR. SHERMAN AND PEABODY (DreamWorks Animation/20th) led the holdovers with $2.8M on Friday, but with Muppets as competition, that was down 50% from last Friday.  NEED FOR SPEED (DreamWorks/Disney) slowed almost to a stop, down 67% from last Friday to $2.2M.  300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (Warners/Legendary) plunged 62% from last Friday to $2.2M, and may not get far past $100M in the US.  VERONICA MARS (Warners) truly defined “frontloaded,” down a horrific 85% from last Friday to $140K.  Fans had better hope it’s holding up better on VOD, or hopes for future installments may be done.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."