Lionsgate is hoping that Shailene Woodley’s higher profile and the continued popularity of Veronica Roth’s books will bolster revenues for “Insurgent,” the sequel to last spring’s futuristic adventure “Divergent.”
Pre-release tracking suggests that the Lionsgate release will enjoy a modest bump over the $54.6 million debut of its predecessor, with most analysts projecting “Insurgent” will kick off with between $57 million and $60 million when it unspools Friday across 3,875 screens.
Call it the “Fault in Our Stars” effect. When “Divergent” premiered in 2014, Woodley was a relative neophyte whose biggest previous role had been a well-received supporting part in 2011’s “The Descendants” and her work as a teen mother on ABC Family’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.”
Now she’s one of Hollywood’s brightest stars, her name mentioned alongside the likes of Kristen Stewart and Jennifer Lawrence. That’s largely due to the way that “Fault in Our Stars” became a breakout summer hit and a “Love Story” for the YouTube generation.
“Her stock is a bit higher than it was when she starred in the first movie,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “That fanbase is going to lead to a bit of a boost.”
Sadly for “Fault” fans, although Woodley’s co-star Ansel Elgort appears in “Insurgent,” he leaves the romancing to Theo James. (He plays the older brother of Woodley’s character in the action franchise.)
The film’s higher profile is evident on Facebook, where the “Divergent” series has added around 3.6 million likes since the first film debuted. It now has 4.7 million likes.
“The marketing has been really aggressive, and I think that’s connecting,” Contrino said. “There’s been a widening of the base.”
Produced for $110 million, “Insurgent” is also $25 million more expensive than the first film. It does, however, have the benefit of a release in 3D, a format the previous chapter opted not to embrace, in addition to an Imax run, so it could get a lift from ticket premiums.
The picture’s success or failure won’t be measured solely on how domestic audiences respond. It will be determined by foreign moviegoers. Roughly 47% of “Divergent’s” $288.7 million in receipts came from overseas, but analysts expect that number will improve given that Roth’s books have grown more popular abroad over the past year. The film will roll out in 74 international markets this week, including Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Singapore and Mexico.
“The international results are going to be much higher because the franchise is now much better known,” said Tuna Amobi of Standard and Poors. “In some respects, ‘Divergent’ underperformed internationally.”
“Insurgent’s” biggest competition will come from the second weekend of “Cinderella,” which should fall about 50% from its $67.9 million debut to end the weekend with roughly $32 million.
The weekend also brings “The Gunman,” but the R-rated thriller with Sean Penn as a highly trained killer on the run is having trouble muscling in on the action. It is expected to generate $8 million when it premieres on 2,816 screens. Open Road is distributing the film in the U.S., while StudioCanal financed the picture and retains rights to many foreign territories.
That leaves the faith-based film “Do You Believe?” as the weekend’s other new release, to try to benefit from being a shrewd counterprogramming option. It premieres in roughly 1,200 theaters and is backed by Pure Flix. The film is a clear Easter play and is pointedly debuting on the same weekend that “God’s Not Dead” bowed last year — that low-budget religious film stunned box office watchers when it made nearly $10 million in its initial weekend. Look for “Do You Believe?” to pull in roughly $5 million when it hits theaters.