After the first great weekend at the box office in some time, things should continue to hold up well with more schools being released for spring break, leading up to the Easter holiday weekend in early April. Last week’s Cinderella should continue to play well although it has to face three strong contenders with one of them likely to replace it as #1 at the box office.
For those who just can’t get enough young adult pablum, this week brings the second chapter in the adaptation of Veronica Roth’s sci-fi romantic coming-of-age drama The Divergent Series: Insurgent (Summit/Lionsgate), once again starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ansel Elgort and Miles Teller, joined by Kate Winslet and fellow Oscar winner Octavia Spencer as well as Oscar nominee Naomi Watts, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Zoe Kravitz, Maggie Q and Ray Stevenson.
It’s an even more impressive cast than the original Divergent, which opened in 3,936 theaters last March, where it made $22.7 million opening day and $54.6 million its opening weekend on its way to $151 million domestic gross and about the same amount overseas. That isn’t quite as big as other hit franchises delivered by the young adult novel-reading audience, specifically “The Twilight Saga” and “The Hunger Games” (which will conclude later this year), but “The Divergent Series” is at the top of the next level of genre movies geared towards women with their romantic undertones. In other words, it made money unlike other attempts that falter at the box office.
What has greatly helped the movie so far is the popularity of Woodley, who already has a fairly strong fanbase, first from her ABC Family show “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” but also from films like Alexander Payne’s Oscar-nominated The Descendants, for which she got a lot of attention. Since the release of the first Divergent movie, she also starred in the adaptation of the popular romantic novel The Fault in Our Stars, which fared well in the early summer, opening with $48 million and grossing $124 million total domestic.
Her co-star Ansel Elgort plays Tris’ brother in this movie, and he’s also exploded in the last year thanks to playing Woodley’s romantic counterpart in “Fault.” Even Miles Teller has been building on his popularity teaming with Woodley in 2013’s The Spectacular Now, but he’s becoming even more popular due to his leading role in the Oscar-nominated Whiplash. And that’s not even counting the likes of Winslet, Watts and Spencer, three powerhouse actors who are doing rare franchise work with “The Divergent Series.”
Needless to say, having such a strong cast will definitely help the movie do better than it might have otherwise, particularly among those who haven’t read the books, although we may want to be reminded that having Oscar winning actors in their cast did nothing for YA movies like last year’s The Giver.
On the other hand, Insurgent is likely to take advantage of the slow roll-out of spring break with Friday and Sunday both being helped by schools being out in various regions. The real question is how this movie will affect last week’s blockbuster Cinderella or be affected by it. In theory, they both share the same female target audience, although that movie is definitely shooting for the family audience whereas Insurgent is shooting for teens and older and isn’t necessarily just going for women. Because it’s a sci-fi genre film with action, there’s a better chance of it being of interest to younger guys that may allow themselves to be dragged there on a date with the promise of action and visual FX.
In theory, the sequel factor will be in play where more people will go to see a sequel in theaters opening weekend rather than waiting, which should allow it to do open bigger—assuming that enough people liked the original movie to want to see the sequel.
We think this one will open around $60 million or slightly more, and it should also end up grossing slightly more than where the previous movie ended up as it doesn’t have any direct competition in its second weekend. Figure that it will probably cap off at around $170 million as Furious 7 is going to destroy everything when it opens in April.
You have to wonder what some of these distributors are thinking when they release an action-thriller like The Gunman (Open Road), starring Sean Penn trying to be the next Liam Neeson (or Colin Firth) by becoming an action star later in his years, just one week after Run All Night, an actual Neeson action-thriller that didn’t fare particularly well. Maybe they were hoping that Run All Night wouldn’t do that well (and it didn’t) so they could pick up the male audience that may not be as interested in Insurgent, but that didn’t work last week by programming Neeson’s movie against Cinderella.
One thing that Neeson’s latest movie didn’t have that The Gunman does is original Taken director Pierre Morel, who worked as a cinematographer for Luc Besson’s productions before transitioning into directing with the crime flick District B13. (The American remake of that film, Brick Mansions, starring the late Paul Walker, grossed just $20 million last April.) Taken was a huge hit for the director, followed by the weaker From Paris with Love, although it’s all about the casting and Morel has two Oscar-winning actors in this one with Penn joined by Javier Bardem.
This is a very different movie for Penn who has been more involved with high drama, having won Oscars for his performances in Milk and Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River, also appearing in Terrence Malick’s Oscar-nominated The Tree of Life. Over the past few years, Penn also appeared in lesser films like All The King’s Men and Fair Game, which failed to receive awards attention, but he also played a key role in Ruben Fleischer’s period action film Gangster Squad, which even with Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin and Emma Stone only grossed $46 million.
Penn’s co-star, Javier Bardem, had a huge hit with the James Bond flick Skyfall in 2012, and has been quite hot since his own Oscar win for the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men, but he’s pretty erratic, with his last movie, Ridley Scott’s The Counselor, being a huge bomb. With that in mind, it’s hard to think that either actor can get moviegoers (particularly males) into seats by doing something different, and it’s going to come down to the premise and how it’s marketed to have any sort of impact.
Considering how poorly Ride All Night did last weekend, it’s hard to think that The Gunman can do much better, especially as it has to face the second weekend of that movie (which received a strong “A-“ CinemaScore). On the other hand, The Gunman is being pitched more like a follow-up to American Sniper, which many will be aware has become the highest-grossing movie of 2014 domestically. Guys who enjoyed that will probably be more interested in this than Neeson’s follow-up to Taken 3 (which got creamed by “Sniper” at the box office) although Penn is no Bradley Cooper in terms of being an actor who appeals to guys.
We’re still slightly dubious that Penn’s attempt at becoming an action star can do much more than $10 million its opening weekend without the marketing push of a bigger studio and probably will end up with roughly $30 million or less as it won’t get far with Furious 7 on the horizon.
The third wide release of the weekend couldn’t be any more different than the other two movies as it’s from the makers of last year’s surprise hit God’s Not Dead, which grossed a shocking $60.8 million after an impressive $9 million opening weekend in less than 800 theaters (see below). Their follow-up drama Do You Believe? (Pure Flix Entertainment) has a wildly diverse cast of actors we haven’t seen that much lately, including Sean Astin, Mira Sorvino, Lee Majors, Cybill Shepherd, Ted McGinley and Alexa PenaVega. They play (and I’m taking this directly from the plot summary since I haven’t seen the movie) “a dozen different souls-all moving in different directions, all longing for something more” whose lives interact.
Honestly, the Christian film genre is something I just haven’t gotten at all, maybe because I’ve seen very few of the movies, but the success of God’s Not Dead last year was followed a month later by the $91 million grossed by Heaven is for Real, which shows a thriving audience for the genre. Both of those movies have stumped me, because neither of them really advertised themselves much although they obviously were able to find their target audience with whatever they did.
Opening in over 500 more theaters than God’s Not Dead and with a stronger cast, I can only assume that Pure Flix Entertainment is giving their latest movie a similarly-focused marketing push to Christian audiences in the Midwest and Southern states, although I have yet to see anything here. If that audience is desperate for a movie that caters to their beliefs, than this is really their only choice in theaters right now.
God’s Not Dead seemed like more of a surprise, somewhat of a fluke, probably helped by its unconventional title. It’s hard to believe that Do You Believe? will follow the same course or even surpass that opening, although it should still do well enough to break into the top half of the Top 10, probably with somewhere between $7 and 9 million. It will likely gross $35 to 40 million if it’s received as well as its predecessor.
This weekend last year saw the release of the first movie in the “Divergent Series,” appropriately called Divergent (Summit/Lionsgate), which introduced Shailene Woodley as Veronica Roth’s popular character Tris. The film opened in nearly 4,000 theaters to the tune of $54.6 million with a per-theater average of close to $14,000 per theater. Hoping to get some of the kids out of school for spring break, Disney released the family sequel Muppets Most Wanted, co-starring Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais, which didn’t do nearly as well as its predecessor, opening with just $17 million in 3,104 theaters for second place. The makers of this week’s Do You Believe? continued the tradition of religious films doing well with God’s Not Dead (Pure Flix), which grossed an outstanding $9.2 million in just 780 theaters, an average of $11,951, which was just slightly less than the average of Divergent. The Top 10 grossed around $130 million which should be bested by the combination of Insurgent and last week’s Cinderella.
This Week’s Updated Predictions –
1. The Divergent Series: Insurgent (Summit/Lionsgate) – $61 million N/A (same)
Kevin Hart tries to teach Will Ferrell how to be funny… in prison, that is… in the comedy Get Hard (Warner Bros.) while the Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons is teamed with Rihanna (possibly the oddest voice pairing ever) for the animated family comedy Home (DreamWorks Animation/Fox).
This Week’s Must-Sees
Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police (Cinema Libre)
Interview with Andy Summers
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (Amplify)
Interview with the Zellner Brothers (Coming Soon!)
Danny Collins (Bleecker Street)
Interview with Director Dan Fogelman (Coming Soon!)
Other Limited Releases of Note:
She’s Lost Control (Monument Releasing)
Jauja (Cinema Guild)
Accidental Love (Millennium Entertainment)
Growing Up and Other Lies (eOne Films)
There are a bunch of horror films opening on Friday, including two “travel thrillers” that premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last September and have played a number of festivals since…
Spring (Drafthouse Films)
Backcountry (IFC Midnight)
Zombeavers (Freestyle Releasing)
Ghoul (Vega Baby Releasing)
The Walking Deceased (ARC Entertainment)
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Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas