Divergent

Lionsgate’s “Divergent” looks to be coming in at the lower end of some forecasts, with early returns indicating the teen-skewing sci-fier may not match recent projections of a $60 million-plus domestic opening.

One estimate predicted “Divergent” would take $22.5 million at 3,936 locations on Friday — including $4.9 million from late shows Thursday — and wind up in the $50 million to $53 million range by the end of the weekend.

That number still means the sci-fi adventure will dominate the weekend box office, as predicted, amid massive support from the core fanbase of young women, though it’s harder to predict how well it is attracting other filmgoers. Reviews have been unimpressive with a 42% “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes aggregation site.

Friday forecasts also showed a substantial skid for Disney’s family-friendly “Muppets Most Wanted,” with tracking declining from $25 million to $20 million. Friday’s estimate for “Muppets” came in around $5.5 million.

The projected Stateside start for “Divergent” is the second largest of 2014, trailing only “The Lego Movie.” The cast, led by Shailene Woodley, has been active in promoting the dystopian drama and the second film going into production in May.

But the opening “Divergent” number pales compared with two other key openings for franchise launches — Summit’s first “Twilight” film with $69 million in November, 2008, and “The Hunger Games” with $152 million during this same mid-March weekend in 2012.

Investors sold shares of Lionsgate stock Friday as it slid 7.85%, losing $2.35 to close at $27.60 — the lowest close since last July. It’s lost 25% of its value since early November and Lionsgate execs have been seeking to temper Wall Street’s predictions for “Divergent” in recent months.

“Muppets Most Wanted” will fall well short of the opening weekend of 2011’s  “The Muppets,” which launched with $29 million over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Fox’s third weekend of “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” looked likely to lead the rest of the pack with $2.9 million on Friday for a total in the $11 million to $12 million range, lifting the DreamWorks toon cume past $80 million.

Freestyle Releasing’s faith-based film “God’s Not Dead” performed respectably on its first day with $2.7 million on Friday at 780 locations for a projected weekend of around $8.2 million.

Warner’s third weekend of “300: Rise of an Empire” should also finish in the same vicinity and win up the frame with a domestic cume in the $93 million range.

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