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'Divergent' Opens To Chart-Topping $56 Million, 'God's Not Dead' Surprises


With a very solid $56 million opening, fantasy film "Divergent" had no problem finding its target demographic over the weekend, giving Lionsgate another potential franchise that can tap into teen audiences. Meanwhile, Disney's "Muppets Most Wanted" struggled to find family audiences, grossing a disappointing $16.5 million and barely making it to $5,000 per site. Also hitting theaters for the first time over the weekend was drama "God's Not Dead," which opened to more than $10,000 per site and $8.6 million overall to make it easily the most successful opening ever for distributor Freestyle.

Hitting more than 3,900 theaters over the weekend, "Divergent" brought enormous expectations from Lionsgate heading into its opening, though it looks like the adaptation of the best-selling book series is off and running in theaters. With more than $14,000 per site and $56 million overall, "Divergent" appears to have shrugged off lukewarm critical reviews and easily reached its predominately teenage audience, giving it one of the biggest March openings in history in the process. Though the opening revenues paled in comparison to the original "Hunger Games," which grossed $152 million in its first weekend for Lionsgate, the fanfare surrounding "Divergent" is a great sign moving forward, and Lionsgate has already officially greenlit the sequel, "Insurgent."

But while domestic crowds clearly were on board for "Divergent," the real test for the series will likely come outside of the U.S., where it's expected to post some very big overall numbers. Much like "The Hunger Games," "Divergent" had an enormous international following and strong worldwide revenue totals would be a very good sign for the overall health of a new franchise. Look for "Divergent" to remain a top draw among mainstream moviegoers over the next few weeks, likely topping $100 million domestically fairly soon.

Also posting good opening numbers over the weekend was "God's Not Dead," which managed to earn a very solid $8.6 million despite playing at less than 800 total venues around the country. Though "God's Not Dead" looked like it was going to struggle just to get into the top 10, it ended up reaching the top five and finding a much wider audience than originally anticipated. Even if it sees a significant drop from here, "God's Not Dead" is already far and away the most successful Freestyle distribution in its short history and should remain a box office factor well into April.

It wasn't all good news for new releases, however, as family-friendly "Muppets Most Wanted" struggled to find its intended audience over the weekend, grossing only $16.5 million despite an aggressive launch of nearly 3,200 total theaters. Grossing just over half of the opening total for 2011's "The Muppets," "Muppets Most Wanted" clearly hurts the chances of continuing the franchise for Disney, and it should finish with disappointing overall numbers by the time it's out of theaters in a couple of months. The only real positive for "Muppets Most Wanted" is its slim $50 million production budget, which should still help it turn a profit if it can reach even a modest international audience.

The weekend was also likely the last that "The Lego Movie" will land in the top 10 after a very strong showing at the box office so far. With a modest $60 million production budget, "The Lego Movie" is now up to $243 million in the U.S. after seven straight weekends in the top 10 to make it the highest grossing 2014 release after the first three months of the year. Adding in another $147 million outside of the U.S., bringing it to $390 million worldwide, "The Lego Movie" looks like a major hit for Warner Brothers and it should kick start a very profitable new franchise.

Next weekend, director Darren Aronofsky's ("Requiem for a Dream," "Black Swan") passion project "Noah" will finally hit theaters, with Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly Anthony Hopkins and Emma Watson starring in the biblical epic that is already drawing significant controversy. Also hitting theaters next weekend will be Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest action film "Sabotage," with Sam Worthington and Malin Akerman co-starring. Starting off April the following week, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" will hit theaters, though the Disney distribution has somewhat tempered expectations compared with the other recent Marvel releases.

Early Studio Box Office Estimates for 3/21/14 - 3/23/14 (in millions), [RTT Prediction]:

1) Divergent (Lionsgate): $56 [$65]

2) Muppets Most Wanted (Disney): $16.51 [$25]

3) Mr. Peabody & Sherman (Fox): $11.70 [$12]

4) 300: Rise of an Empire (Warner Bros.): $8.67 [$9.6]

5) God's Not Dead (Freestyle): $8.56 [N/A]

6) Need for Speed (Disney): $7.78 [$8.2]

7) The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight): $6.75 [$3]

8) Non-Stop (Universal): $6.35 [$5.8]

9) The Lego Movie (Warner Bros.): $4.12 [$4]

10) Tyler Perry's Single Mom's Club (Lionsgate): $3.10 [$4]

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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