Many would-be successors have tried and failed to match the success of "The Twilight Saga" and "The Hunger Games." Box-office forecasters are confident that "Divergent" will break the young-adult adaptation curse, succeeding where "The Mortal Instruments," "Vampire Academy" and many others have failed.
"Divergent" may very well open north of $60 million at the box office, according to projections from The Hollywood Reporter, Entertainment Weekly and ComingSoon.net. Box Office Mojo was more conservative, pinning the number closer to $50 million. The Los Angeles Times split the difference at $55 million.
The entire movie industry and its observers are in agreement on one point: "Divergent" will succeed where so many recent attempts have failed. As our own Kevin P. Sullivan recently pointed out, Shailene Woodley built serious indie cred prior to this franchise kickoff, just like Jennifer Lawrence before her.
In the last year and a half, "Vampire Academy," "The Mortal Instruments," "Beautiful Creatures" and "The Host" all came and went with little fanfare. "Percy Jackson" and "I Am Number Four" didn't fare well, either. "Twilight" opened in November 2008 to the tune of $69 million, launching a franchise that eventually made over $3.3 billion around the world. With just two films thus far, "The Hunger Games" series has made $1.5 billion already.
Of course "Divergent" isn't the only youth-friendly franchise in theaters this weekend. Aiming at a much younger audience in addition to nostalgic parents, "Muppets Most Wanted" looks to capitalize on the success of the 2011 franchise reboot, "The Muppets." The film starts literally where the last one ended, but the human side of the cast is entirely different. "Muppets Most Wanted" is a heist/caper film that sees the beloved characters manipulated by the scheming Dominic Badguy (the last name is, um, "French") and his boss, Kermit doppelgänger Constantine, a.k.a. the World's Most Dangerous Frog.
"Muppets Most Wanted" features Tina Fey as a Russian prison guard, Ty Burrell as a French detective and a big new batch of celebrity cameos, as is the Muppets tradition. Of course, the last one opened over Thanksgiving and had the whole "bringing back the Muppets" angle behind it. "Muppets Most Wanted" is expected to open at #2 this weekend, somewhere in the low to mid $20 million range.
In limited release, there's Shia LaBeouf in Lars Von Trier's "Nymphomaniac: Volume One"; "Blood Ties," starring Clive Owen and Zoe Saldana, in 25 theaters; an expanded opening for Jason Bateman's "Bad Words"; and Christian indie "God's Not Dead," which includes Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain in its cast.
The top five should be filled out by holdovers "Mr. Peabody and Sherman," "300: Rise of an Empire" and Aaron Paul's "Need for Speed."