Belfast Telegraph

Divergent leads box office takings

Divergent has followed Twilight and The Hunger Games as the latest young-adult franchise to be a box office hit.

The teen science-fiction thriller starring Shailene Woodley debuted with 56 million dollars (£34 million) over the weekend, according to US studio estimates. The opening, while less than some anticipated, launches Lionsgate's third franchise built on young-adult best-sellers.

With an audience 59 per cent female and half under the age of 25, Divergent lured young moviegoers with another film targeting teenage girls with dystopian drama and an upcoming star.

However it fell well short of its forerunners. Twilight opened with 69.6 million dollars (£42.2 million) in 2008, and The Hunger Games began with 152.5 million dollars (£92.3 million) in 2012.

Richie Fay, president of domestic distribution for Lionsgate, called it "a great beginning for another franchise for the company". A sequel is already in the works.

"The key to the success of these franchises is finding the difference and marketing it," said Fay. "It's not easy. And I think we're doing it better than anyone else right now, frankly."

In the rush to adapt popular young-adult fiction, Lionsgate has succeeded where many others have floundered. Divergent, made with a budget of 85 million dollars from Veronica Roth's best-sellers, follows less stellar results from youth-focused films like The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Vampire Academy and Beautiful Creatures.

Disney's Muppets sequel Muppets Most Wanted, with Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey, fared poorly, earning just 16.5 million dollars (£10 million) over the weekend. The Muppets, opened notably better with 29.2 million dollars (£17.7 million) in 2011, benefiting from the high-profile reboot starring and co-written by Jason Segal.

Dave Hollis, head of distribution for Disney, acknowledged the result was disappointing and somewhat "head-scratching" considering advance tracking had suggested Muppets Most Wanted would draw bigger crowds.

"There certainly was something in the last Muppets - not having anything available for fans for a while - that satisfied pent up demand that we didn't have the benefit of this time around," Hollis said.

The surprise of the weekend was the strong performance of the independently released God's Not Dead, made to appeal specifically to faith-based audiences. It came in fifth with 8.6 million dollars (£5.2 million), despite playing on just 780 screens.

Next week, Paramount Pictures' Noah, directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Russell Crowe, will attempt to cross over to mainstream audiences with a Bible tale in US cinemas. Opening early in Mexico and South Korea, Noah got off to a strong start overseas, earning 14 million dollars (£8.4 million).

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