By Daniel Garris
Lionsgate's Divergent debuted comfortably in first place this weekend with $54.61 million. The highly anticipated young adult adaptation starring Shailene Woodley performed in line with its wide ranging expectations which fell anywhere from $50 million to $70 million heading into the weekend. Without adjusting for ticket price inflation, Divergent delivered the ninth largest debut ever for the month of March. The film generated the second largest opening weekend of 2014 thus far (behind only the $69.05 million start of The LEGO Movie). Divergent opened 21 percent below the $69.64 million start of 2008's Twilight and 102 percent above the $27.02 million debut of last year's Ender's Game. The film's very solid start this weekend is a good early sign for its two already announced sequels, Insurgent (set for March 20, 2015) and Allegiant (set for March 18, 2016).
While Divergent was helped by strong pre-sales driven by its built-in audience of fans, the film wasn't very front-loaded for a young adult adaptation. The film opened with $22.78 million on Friday (which included an estimated $4.9 million from late night showings on Thursday night), fell only 13 percent on Saturday to take in $19.85 million and declined 40 percent on Sunday to take in $11.97 million. That placed the film's opening weekend to Friday ratio at 2.40 to 1. In comparison, 2012's The Hunger Games had a ratio of 2.27 to 1, while Twilight had a ratio of just 1.94 to 1.
The more back-loaded start of Divergent is a good early sign going forward and was due at least in part to the film's somewhat surprising four-quadrant appeal. The audience breakdown for the film skewed towards female moviegoers (59 percent) and was roughly evenly split between moviegoers over and under the age of 25. Divergent received a strong A rating on CinemaScore, which is also a good early sign going forward.
Divergent grossed $4.8 million from 348 IMAX locations this weekend. That represented 8.8 percent of the film's total grosses this weekend. Grosses from all large screen format locations (including IMAX) represented just over 16 percent of this weekend's total grosses.
Disney's Muppets Most Wanted debuted in a distant second place with an underwhelming start of $17.01 million. The latest Muppets film opened below expectations and 42 percent below the $29.24 million opening weekend take of 2011's The Muppets (a figure which was deflated from that film opening on a Wednesday). Muppets Most Wanted was simply unable to create the same level of pre-release excitement that The Muppets did and was also hurt by arriving so soon after fellow family films The LEGO Movie and Mr. Peabody & Sherman. The four-quadrant appeal of Divergent also didn't help matters for Muppets Most Wanted this weekend.
Muppets Most Wanted opened with $4.66 million on Friday, increased 53 percent on Saturday to take in $7.15 million and fell 27 percent on Sunday to take in $5.20 million. That placed the film's opening weekend to Friday ratio at 3.65 to 1; a sure signal that the film is skewing heavily towards family audiences. The audience breakdown for the film skewed towards female moviegoers (54 percent) and moviegoers 25 years and younger (54 percent). Muppets Most Wanted received a respectable B+ rating on CinemaScore.
The weekend's other new major release, God's Not Dead, debuted surprisingly strong in fourth place with $9.24 million. The faith-based drama from Freestyle and Pure Flix averaged an impressive $11,852 for the frame from 780 locations. God's Not Dead delivered the largest opening weekend ever for Freestyle (the distributor's previous high-mark was the $5.78 million start of 2006's An American Haunting). Compared to other faith-based films, God's Not Dead opened 1.4 percent above the $9.11 million debut of 2011's Courageous and 35 percent above the $6.84 million start of 2008's Fireproof.
Along with the recent stronger than expected start of Fox's Son of God, the strong start of God's Not Dead appears to be signaling a resurgence at the box office for faith-based films. That could be good news for Paramount's Noah (which opens this coming Friday) and Sony's Heaven Is For Real (which debuts on April 16). God's Not Dead grossed $2.82 million on Friday, increased 18 percent on Saturday to take in $3.32 million and fell a very slim 6 percent on Sunday to take in $3.10 million. That placed the film's opening weekend to Friday ratio at a healthy 3.28 to 1.
Last weekend's top film, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, fell two spots and a significant 46 percent to place in third with $11.83 million. After a strong hold last weekend, the 3D computer animated film from Fox and DreamWorks Animation clearly took a hit from the arrival of both Divergent and Muppets Most Wanted in the marketplace this weekend. Mr. Peabody & Sherman surpassed the $80 million mark on Sunday and has grossed a respectable $81.13 million through 17 days of release. That places the film just behind the $81.50 million 17-day take of 2009's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
Warner's 300: Rise of an Empire and Disney's Need for Speed claimed fifth and sixth place respectively with weekend takes of $8.50 million and $7.94 million. 300: Rise of an Empire slid 56 percent from last weekend, while Need for Speed was down 55 percent. As was the case with many of the major holdovers this weekend, both action films likely took an extra hit from the stronger than anticipated appeal of Divergent with male moviegoers. To date, 300: Rise of an Empire has grossed a healthy $93.59 million in 17 days, while Need for Speed has grossed a lackluster $30.57 million in ten days.
Meanwhile on the limited front, Fox Searchlight's The Grand Budapest Hotel remained impressive with a seventh place take of $6.79 million from just 304 locations. That gave the much buzzed about Wes Anderson directed film a per-location average of $22,329 for the frame. With a 17-day take of $12.998 million, The Grand Budapest Hotel is running far ahead of the $3.73 million 2012's Moonrise Kingdom grossed in 17 days (though it should be noted that Moonrise Kingdom expanded much more slowly in comparison). Given its continued strength, The Grand Budapest Hotel is in great shape to continue to perform well as it expands into additional locations going forward.