Weekend Box Office (March 21 - 23, 2014)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Grossing more than the next five films combined, the futuristic thriller Divergent opened at number one in North America with a muscular debut ranking as the year's biggest opening for a live-action movie. The Lionsgate release collected $54.6M from 3,936 theaters for a spectacular $13,874 average, according to final studio figures. IMAX screens helped boost ticket prices with the large-screen format accounting for an impressive 16% of the weekend business.

Succeeding where many recent young adult novels have failed, Divergent brought out its fan base effectively and came into the weekend with solid pre-sales. Opening day grosses, including Thursday night shows beginning at 8pm, raced to a stellar $22.8M with Saturday dropping 13% to $19.9M and Sunday declining by 40% to $12M. Thursday/Friday sales accounted for 42% of the weekend business.

Women drove the success but the teen heroine tale did not skew as young as expected. Studio research showed that 59% of the audience was female but those over and under 25 were evenly split. Paying customers disagreed with critics as the poorly-reviewed film earned an encouraging A grade from those polled by CinemaScore. The reported production cost was about $85M.

Divergent scored the second best opening weekend of 2014 behind only the mega-toon The LEGO Movie's $69.1M. A new franchise was born as the next film in the series, Insurgent, is set to hit theaters next year followed in 2016 by Allegiant - all on the same mid-March weekend. By no coincidence, this is the very same slot Lionsgate used to launch The Hunger Games two years ago.

Opening to soft results in second place was the family sequel Muppets Most Wanted with $17M from 3,194 locations for a moderate $5,324 average. Disney's new PG-rated film brought out roughly half as much business as its predecessor did when it debuted in 2011. The Muppets bowed over the Thanksgiving holiday session to $29.2M over the Friday-to-Sunday span and $41.5M across five days on its way to $88.6M overall domestically.

Reviews for Wanted were generally good, but not as strong as for the last film which created excitement by bringing a long-popular brand back to the big screen. Competition was an issue as rival kidpics Mr. Peabody & Sherman and The LEGO Movie were still in the top ten grossing over $324M combined in recent weeks making another kidpic not too necessary. Add in The Nut Job and the long-lasting Frozen and families have already spent more than half a billion dollars at multiplexes in 2014 on kid movies.

According to studio research, Muppets Most Wanted played 54% female and 54% under 25. The CinemaScore grade was a moderate B+. The European-set film hopes to score better internationally as it rolls out around the world over the coming weeks and months.

Making the rounds from second place, to first, to now third was the DreamWorks toon Mr. Peabody & Sherman with an $11.8M weekend. The Fox release declined by 46% which was understandable given a new kidpic entering the marketplace. Cume is $81.1M on its way to around $110M.

Faith-based audiences came out in droves for the Freestyle release God's Not Dead which opened to $9.2M from 780 theaters for a strong $11,852 average. The PG-rated film about a college student who is challenged by his professor to prove God's existence was driven by solid advance ticket sales and by church-based outreach. Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain starred and Duck Dynasty's popular Willie Robertson made a cameo which was used in the marketing push. God proved once again that there are large numbers of American moviegoers willing to pay to see stories that appeal to them and those who fill the demand can find much success.

Warner Bros. saw its epic action sequel 300: Rise of an Empire fall 56% to $8.5M in its third round boosting the total to $93.6M. The domestic final should end in the same neighborhood as Peabody's. Overseas, the 3D war film has taken in an impressive $195.4M to date from 63 markets for $289M worldwide.

Decelerating 56% in its second lap was the video game-inspired action title Need for Speed with $7.9M. It was a large but understandable drop for this type of film and the cume stands at only $30.6M for Disney. A domestic final of $45-50M seems likely. Speed is seeing much better results overseas, especially in China which is beating North America. Led by that country's $41.7M, the international total rose to $96.1M for a global tally of $126.5M with 76% coming from abroad. Speed cost about $66M to produce.

Wes Anderson's indie juggernaut The Grand Budapest Hotel continued to sparkle in its third weekend with $6.8M from 304 locations for a fantastic $22,329 average. Fox Searchlight expanded the run from last week's 66 locations and will widen again on Friday into over 800 theaters. This is about as good as it gets for specialty films successfully expanding across the country to a wider audience. Cume is $13M.

Universal's Non-Stop followed with $6.4M, off 39%, for a $78.7M total for Liam Neeson. The LEGO Movie dropped 46% to $4.1M and has amassed $243.4M to date for Warner Bros, $391M worldwide. Rounding out the top ten was the Tyler Perry flop The Single Moms Club with $3.1M, down 62%, for a $12.9M total.

The top ten films grossed $129.6M which was up 2% from last year when The Croods opened at number one with $43.6M; but down 36% from 2012 when The Hunger Games debuted on top with a jaw-dropping $152.5M.

Compared to projections, Divergent opened very close to my $53M forecast while Muppets Most Wanted came in well below my $26M prediction.

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For a NEW review of Divergent visit The Chief Report.

Watch the NEW trailer for Maleficent.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Noah and Sabotage open.

# Title Mar 21 - 23 Mar 14 - 16 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Divergent $ 54,607,747 3,936 1 $ 13,874 $ 54,607,747 Lionsgate
2 Muppets Most Wanted 17,005,126 3,194 1 5,324 17,005,126 Disney
3 Mr. Peabody & Sherman 11,832,558 21,809,249 -45.7 3,607 3 3,280 81,134,942 Fox
4 God's Not Dead 9,244,641 780 1 11,852 9,244,641 Freestyle
5 300: Rise of an Empire 8,504,075 19,201,345 -55.7 3,085 3 2,757 93,592,194 Warner Bros.
6 Need for Speed 7,941,631 17,844,939 -55.5 3,115 2 2,549 30,565,514 Disney
7 The Grand Budapest Hotel 6,787,955 3,638,041 86.6 304 3 22,329 12,998,474 Fox Searchlight
8 Non-Stop 6,434,825 10,615,305 -39.4 2,945 4 2,185 78,709,555 Universal
9 The LEGO Movie 4,149,244 7,701,309 -46.1 2,501 7 1,659 243,385,918 Warner Bros.
10 The Single Moms Club 3,103,057 8,075,111 -61.6 1,896 2 1,637 12,913,081 Lionsgate
11 Son of God 2,719,425 5,528,497 -50.8 2,139 4 1,271 55,669,073 Fox
12 The Monuments Men 951,149 2,062,783 -53.9 938 7 1,014 75,684,875 Sony
13 Frozen 735,601 2,147,743 -65.8 1,069 18 688 397,744,862 Disney
14 Ride Along 627,355 1,377,295 -54.5 650 10 965 133,120,355 Universal
15 3 Days to Kill 587,885 1,730,343 -66.0 752 5 782 29,733,527 Relativity
16 Bad Words 505,044 113,301 345.8 87 2 5,805 660,817 Focus
17 Veronica Mars 468,175 1,988,351 -76.5 347 2 1,349 2,832,919 Warner Bros.
18 12 Years a Slave 439,762 1,222,892 -64.0 522 23 842 56,030,347 Fox Searchlight
19 The Nut Job 336,447 482,320 -30.2 335 10 1,004 62,600,840 Open Road
20 American Hustle 232,315 608,422 -61.8 281 15 827 149,806,721 Sony
Top 5 $ 101,194,147 $ 77,545,949 30.5
Top 10 129,610,859 98,624,322 31.4
Top 20 137,214,017 108,693,674 26.2
Top 20 vs. 2013 137,214,017 134,072,204 2.3

Last Updated: March 24, 2014 at 10:50PM ET

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