Divergent

'Muppets Most Wanted' headed for mid-$20 millions domestic opening

Legions of “Divergent” fans are poised to fuel a $60 million-plus domestic opening for the Lionsgate-Summit film, which will handily win the weekend ahead of Disney’s family-targeted “Muppets Most Wanted,” tracking in the mid-$20 millions range.

The projected Stateside start for “Divergent” puts it in the same realm as the first “Twilight” film, which opened to $69 million during fall 2008, though no where near the high-water mark of YA champ “The Hunger Games’s” $152 million start in 2012.

Regardless of its opening, the franchise potential for “Divergent,” which cost $85 million to produce, has been settled for a while now as production on the second installment, “Insurgent,” is set to begin in May.

Expectations for “Divergent” are inflated somewhat by advanced pre-sales, especially among teens in groups. According to a survey done by online ticketer Fandango, 66% of “Divergent’s” advanced ticket buyers said they intend to see the film with friends. Pic bows Thursday for evening shows in Imax and other premium-large format locations.

Meanwhile, reviews for “Muppets Most Wanted” have been mostly positive, though less favorable than the 2011 Muppet feature that opened to $29 million over Thanksgiving weekend and grossed more than $88 million domestically. This is only the second first-quarter launch for “The Muppets” franchise, after “Muppets Treasure Island” in 1996.

The newest “Muppets” pic carries some significant pop culture cachet with young adults, thanks largely to stars Tina Fey and Ty Burrell, as well as a list of other recognizable acting cameos. The film needs to hit with non-families, with “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” still in the game for parents and kids.

Playability for the “Divergent” adaptation — beyond just fans of Veronica Roth’s dystopian-themed book — is far less certain, however. The film has scored a discouraging 29% score on Rotten Tomatoes vs. the first “Twilight,” which amassed a 49% rating, and “The Hunger Games,” which scored 84%. “Divergent” could use stronger reviews to attract auds not familiar with the book, though the teen audience relies far more heavily on word-of-mouth.

Internationally, the film begins its rollout on April 4 in markets including the U.K., Italy and Mexico, followed a week later by France, Germany, Russia and Australia.

In an aggressive limited Stateside launch, Freestyle Releasing’s faith-based film “God’s Not Dead,” about a college student who sets out to prove God’s existence, bows at 780 locations. Tracking services anticipate the film will gross nearly $5 million in three days.

Also, Fox Searchlight expands Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” to 304 locations, up from 66 last weekend, when the film grossed a remarkable $55,122 per-screen average. So far, the film has amassed nearly $6 million domestically, with more than $20 million overseas.

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