Box Office Outlook: Divergent
Divergent poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published March 20, 2014
I’m anticipating an opening day of $22 – 28 million for Divergent in 3,936 theaters, which would be a per-screen average between $5,500 and $7,000.
I’m anticipating an opening day of $22 – 28 million for Divergent in 3,936 theaters, which would be a per-screen average between $5,500 and $7,000, and I’m going to go with a midpoint of $24.5 million. At least in Los Angeles, the movie isn’t selling out the Thursday night sneaks and even Friday showtimes are very available at the time of writing this which should keep this at a fraction of The Hunger Games. Though irrelevant in genre, Gravity was showing stronger attendance in Thursday night sneaks, and in particular, its attendance at the upscale Hollywood theater was selling through the roof and grossing multiples of certain top theaters. Gravity had stronger star-power and director credibility for the major film markets and its reviews were also raved universally, in comparison to the rather poor Divergent reviews so I can understand the difference between, at least in Los Angeles. Thursday night sneaks here may not be the best way to predict its opening weekend since many might just show up on Friday. For some reason it’s reminding me of the debut for Star Trek: Into Darkness, which got off to a considerably softer start than the original before taking off in the rest of the weekend in box office sales. Into Darkness opened to $13.5 million Thursday in 3,762 theaters, jumped to $21.6 million on Friday and escalated to $26.9 million on Saturday, leading to a 3-day of $70.1 million and a 4-day of $83.7 million.

Trailer reactions to Divergent in front of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire weren’t anything like they were for the first Hunger Games but there was still very strong appeal amongst young girls and young women. I was at a full-house screening of Catching Fire in Westwood on its opening night with 1,300 people and college girls who had seen Shailene Woodley’s The Spectacular Now had let out an admirable “Aww” at her presence while the trailer received less-than-enthusiastic responses from the guys who were in attendance. Though it was a limited release run, The Spectacular Now averaged $49,354 the first weekend in 4 theaters. Normally in big cities for big studio movies, you take the weekend gross in millions and take out the last three digits in gross and that’s what a high-end theater grossed in levels of thousands. So if a movie grossed $49.4 million over the weekend, it would convert to roughly $49,400 at top theaters. Grosses vary from theater to theater but I’ve been amazed in recent years at how closely it all resembles. If The Spectacular Now happened to heavily appeal to most of America the first weekend rather than just at certain art-house theaters, that would’ve meant it could’ve tapped right on the $50 million mark. The marketing for Divergent has tried to massively broaden Woodley’s star-power beyond just at certain art-houses of America and turn this into what would be at least a $50 million weekend debut.

$50 million would be a bit of a disappointment considering its massive campaign and I suspect the weekend is going to be at least $10 million more. Jennifer Lawrence happens to have a wilder personality than Shailene Woodley has and gave interviews that made countless young girls and women want to eagerly follow her around. Lawrence has seemed like a party girl in comparison and can’t shut her mouth which was a monster draw for people. Woodley comes off like the quiet girl next door and pretty close to her big-screen lead in Spectacular Now, which is what sets the two talents apart in appeal because there’s an energy difference. Lawrence made her fans want to cheer on her career whereas Woodley gets more of a long and cute “Aww…” response. Lawrence is an extrovert and Woodley is an introvert so there will be a big difference in attraction. Woodley can give interviews but Lawrence has a spark about her and refusal to be seen as boring. Lawrence is seen as nervous but hyperactive and has a cheerleader vibe that has sold through the roof. The difference between their personalities is likely going to leave a near $100 million difference in sales. Divergent should be able to clear $50 - 60 million and the question is just to what extent it will clear it.

There aren’t really comparisons to draw from outside of the two Hunger Games films which makes this a huge wildcard pick and difficult to compare for gross contrasts. This isn’t exactly Twilight where anybody who has ever wanted to become a vampire would want to be first in line. Though it is irrelevant, the first Twilight movie scored $36 million on its first day Friday, dropped off huge to $21.3 million on Saturday and concluded with a $69.6 million weekend in 3,419 theaters. That was before it attracted the entire world to its concept when the sequel bombarded America with a $142.8 million debut. $70 million would be the figure to beat for Divergent and word of mouth will likely determine that. People who study reviews before going to the movies are going to be discouraged here because the film has scored a lower-than-mediocre 36% on Rotten Tomatoes which might scare off smarter moviegoers.

There’s going to be a huge built-in audience regardless but other people might not want to invest here in fear of a bad movie. I’m going to predict about a $65 million weekend but I am very prepared to be off the mark in some direction by Sunday if there is stronger appeal in the Midwest than on the West Coast or even weaker than what I’m seeing. Advance sales are indicating that even Gravity’s $55.8 million weekend take would be a stretch but I’m putting faith in younger viewers waiting to Friday to buy online or simply just showing up to the theater. Divergent cost $85 million to produce and so it doesn’t have to blow everybody's minds at the box office to break-even or even make some profit. That is without marketing costs involved but the first step is merely making back the production value. If it does gross $60 - 70 million in three days, it should be making back its budget quickly with weekdays.
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'Divergent' Articles
  • Craig's Divergent review D+
    March 23, 2014    For a movie trying to be the start of a series, Divergent doesn’t manage to kick-start much of anything. -- Craig Younkin
  • Crowd Report Analysis: Divergent
    March 21, 2014    I was hesitant about going under $50 million for the weekend even with slow advance sales but now that possibility is sounding awfully possible. -- Lee Tistaert