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Box Office: ‘Divergent’ Dominates With $22.8 Million Friday, ‘God’s Not Dead’ Surprises at No. 3

Lionsgate-Summit’s “Divergent” continues on course for the No. 1 box office spot.

After dominating the Friday B.O. with $22.8 million, the sci-fi adventure is on track for a $55 million Stateside weekend opening — the second-largest of the year behind “The Lego Movie’s” $69 million launch.

Disney’s “Muppets Most Wanted” trails far behind with a $4.7 million Friday bow. It will likely place second this weekend with an estimated $17 million opening. But the biggest shocker is Freestyle Releasing’s “God’s Not Dead,” which nabbed third place on Friday with $2.8 million and looks to sneak into this weekend’s top five.

“Muppets” came in far below estimates because of competition from another family-friendly pic, last weekend’s runner-up “Mr. Peabody and Sherman.” The movie, starring Tina Fey and Ty Burrell, will also fall short against its predecessor — “The Muppets” premiered to $29 million over Thanksgiving weekend in 2011. The musical grossed almost $89 million domestically and $165 million worldwide.

Lionsgate-Summit’s latest YA adaptation probably won’t meet recent projections of a $60 million-plus opening, but the studio will still have another hit on its hands. “Divergent,” which earned $4.9 million on Thursday night, pales in comparison to the first “Twilight” film, which made almost $70 million during Thanksgiving weekend of 2008, or the first “Hunger Games” movie, which grossed $152 million during this same weekend in 2012. The two franchises have hauled in a collective $5 billion globally so far.

Like its YA kin, the sci-fier’s sequels could perform better at the B.O. The second installment, “Insurgent,” is set to begin production in May. “Insurgent” and “Allegiant” will hit theaters in March of 2015 and 2016, respectively.

The Shailene Woodley-starrer — based on Veronica Roth’s best-selling series — reportedly cost $85 million to produce and is currently playing in 3,936 locations. Although targeted primarily to teens, about half of theater-goers were over 25. Around 59% were female and 41% male, indicating a broader scope than expected.

Despite “Divergent”s box office domination, the surprise winner this weekend is “God’s Not Dead.” The low-budget faith-based film earned $2.8 million on Friday at 780 locations, putting it on track for an $8.5 million weekend. With a per-screen average of $3,590, the pic, which includes cameos from “Duck Dynasty’s” Willie and Korie Robertson, clearly appeals to underserved faith-based audiences.

Earlier this month, Fox’s “Son of God” kicked off this year’s uncommonly large slate of religious wide releases when it opened in theaters to an impressive $26 million. The film, based on the five-part History Channel miniseries from producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, benefited from an aggressive marketing campaign targeting the faith-based community.

Paramount’s Biblical tale “Noah” (with Russell Crowe as the titular religious figure) is expected to control the box office next weekend. Randall Wallace’s Christian drama “Heaven Is for Real” will be released by TriStar next month and Fox opens Ridley Scott’s Moses pic “Exodus,” starring Christian Bale, before Christmas.

Meanwhile, Fox’s “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” is headed to third place this weekend with $2.7 million on Friday and a projected $11 million by Sunday for an estimated $80 million cume.

Warner Bros.’s “300: Rise of an Empire,” which is also in its third frame, made $2.4 million on Friday. It’s set to finish the weekend with $8 million and a domestic cume in the $93 million range.

Additionally, Fox Searchlight expanded “The Grand Budapest Hotel” yet again, from 66 to 304 locations. Wes Anderson’s latest feature made almost $1.9 million on Friday, en route to $6.5 million this weekend and a $12.5 million three-week cume. Its $6,184 per-screen Friday average is better than any other movie currently in theaters, including “Divergent’s” $5,793.

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