Friday, March 21, 2014

A Singing Frog and a Dystopian Society Just Mean Another Weekend at the Box Office

Scott looks at a weekend that is a battle of brand recognition. It is a best-selling YA novel franchise going up against those beloved Muppets. Scott offers up in-depth analysis of both new release pictures.

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In the wake of the Twilight movies and under the current love for The Hunger Games, movie studios have been working fast and hard to find the next breakout young adult series to cash in on the financial success that has been mined by the two mentioned franchises. Opening this weekend is Divergent, which is based on the first book in a trilogy by Veronica Roth, which has its sights on being the next big thing in theatres. Also opening is Muppets Most Wanted, the follow up to the well received 2011 The Muppets, which was able to win over both audiences as well as critics.

There is a great deal of hype behind the release of the Neil Burger directed Divergent, with early indicators skewing towards the possibility that it could indeed be a hit. The waters in which it is charting are not friendly ones, a tumultuous sea that last year alone spat out three attempts to be the next big thing in the young adult world.

There was Beautiful Creatures from Warner Bros, which opened in February and only made a worldwide total of $55 million on a budget of $50 million. After that it was Universal who stepped up to the plate and released the Stephanie Meyer book turned film, The Host. While it hoped to grab Twi-hards who could possibly follow the Meyer name, it eventually finished at $58 million on a budget of $50 million. Once August rolled around it was Sony’s turn to set itself up for possible failure, which is exactly what it received when it launched The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. It would turn out that the third time was not indeed a charm, and City of Bones only managed $75 million on its budget of $60 million.

Studios always seem very quick to try and recreate the successes of others, and a lot of times it ends up being the situation that each of these films found themselves in; hyped for a franchise and losing money in the process. It is no surprise that Divergent seems to be prepped for success when we consider the fact that it is from Summit Entertainment, which is a subsidiary of Lionsgate. There is a lot of knowledge in the YA market shared between the two studios, with Summit being the studio behind Twilight and Lionsgate taking care of The Hunger Games. Where others have failed, there are a lot of signs pointing to a solid opening for Divergent.

At the time of writing this, Divergent is far and away the most talked about movie on Twitter with 123,000 tweets. That is 102,000 tweets ahead of the next closest movie, which is Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Because of the audience that it is marketing towards, the social media presence is a critical factor and it has been able to establish the online hype just fine. On top of the impressive Twitter numbers, Summit is now claiming that Divergent has set a record for the movie with the most Instagram followers. Fandango, the online ticket purchasing website, has also stated that ticket sales for Divergent represent 80% of their current weekend presales.

It is fairly safe to say that it will not be reaching the same kind of opening numbers that The Hunger Games opened to ($152 million), and it is more likely going to land closer to Twilight’s opening weekend ($69 million). Holding reported $80 million budget, this film should be a safe success after taking a look at the current tracking and indicators. As with The Hunger Games, the film has a chance to launch the career of Shailene Woodley, an extremely talented up and coming actress.

Divergent Opening Weekend Prediction - $63 Million

While I may have drowned you to death in my wordy analysis of Divergent’s chances, I promise I will be a lot more concise in regards to Muppets Most Wanted. In 2011, The Muppets returned to the big screen for the first time in twelve years and enjoyed the highest opening weekend for the franchise with $29 million.

There was not a great deal of success for the Jim Henson created crew of puppets for a number of the films (many of the movies fell short of reaching $30 million world-wide), so a return to relevancy in such a big way was able to pump the energy needed to fuel a sequel.

At the moment critics are responding well to Muppets Most Wanted, giving it a Rotten Tomato score of 80%. A positive critical reception does not always mean a lot for a family movie, but it can really factor in when parents are staring down the barrel of having to purchase multiple tickets as well as concessions. Two weeks ago, Mr. Peabody & Sherman opened to $32 million and this is the area that I could see Muppets Most Wanted getting close to. I have seen a number of predictions for this film at $25 million, but my gut is telling me that it could do a bit better. I denied my gut last weekend and paid dearly the price for it. I will not ignore it twice in a row… unless it is just the quesadillas talking.

Muppets Most Wanted Opening Weekend Prediction - $30 Million

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