March 21 Divergent is the latest young-adult adaptation geared toward fans of the Twilight and Hunger Games franchises. Confident that it's going to be a hit, distributor Lionsgate has already hired a director for the second installment, and put the third and final movie on the release schedule in 2016. Of course, getting audiences to show up for a young-adult adaptation is easier said than done, and in the past year there have been four separate failures: Beautiful Creatures, The Host, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and Vampire Academy.
At this point, it's pretty clear that Divergent isn't destined for the same fate. All three books in author Veronica Roth's series have been in the Top 10 on Amazon for a lengthy period of time, and it's safe to say that its fanbase is significantly larger than that of other recent would-be franchises. Recognizing this, Lionsgate made a serious financial investment in Divergent, and the production value looks like a step up. Finally, they've rolled out an aggressive marketing effort designed at creating brand awareness outside of the Divergent fanbase. Divergent won't be the next Hunger Games, but it could be the next Twilight: with a little over two weeks until release, it's being reported that the movie is tracking in line with the first Twilight. That suggests Divergent could open over $70 million, which would be a huge win for Lionsgate. Muppets Most Wanted reaches theaters two-and-a-half years after the Muppets reboot earned $88.6 million at the domestic box office. With goodwill from the well-liked first movie, and with a memorable, fun marketing effort, it's widely assumed that Muppets Most Wanted can match its predecessor.
Unfortunately, live-action family sequels have an atrocious track record: The Smurfs, Stuart Little, The Pink Panther and Garfield all fell at least 50 percent in their second outings. While The Muppets was obviously a step up from those movies, that data suggests that expectations ought to be tempered for Muppets Most Wanted. March 28
In recent months, Noah has generated a lot of controversy for deviating from the Old Testament story upon which it's based. Controversy drives conversation, which in turn creates awareness. Add in a pretty broad marketing effort from Paramount (which included a Super Bowl spot) and the message is being heard loud and clear: Aronofsky and Russell Crowe have teamed up on a big-budget disaster movie that brings to life one of the most iconic stories of all-time. That alone should be enough to drive a major opening weekend (at least $40 million wouldn't be surprising). From there, word-of-mouth could have a significant impact: if the movie is as wacky as some rumors suggest, general audiences may quickly turn against it.
After taking nearly a decade off to serve as governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger finally returned to the big-screen last year. Unfortunately, his first two outings (The Last Stand, Escape Plan) were bombs in the U.S., which suggests audiences are no longer interested in seeing Arnold in the kind of R-rated action movies that were his bread-and-butter in the 80s.
His upcoming movie Sabotage looks like more of the same, albeit with a fairly generic drug-bust-gone-wrong plot and a cast of TV actors at his site. With so many other options in the market (and Captain America on the way a week later) it's tough to see how this could do much better than Escape Plan ($25.1 million).
Among limited releases, Cesar Chavez seems to have the most potential. The movie is opening right before Cesar Chavez Day, a holiday dedicated to the Latin American civil rights activist portrayed in the movie by Michael Pena. While it's unclear if Hispanics will turn out en masse, Instructions Not Included recently proved movies that speak directly to this audience can put up impressive numbers at the box office.
Two years after The Raid: Redemption, director Gareth Evans is back with The Raid 2. Unfortunately, the first one rode a ton of hype to a measly $4.1 million total. While it's clearly built up a bigger fanbase since then, it would be surprising if The Raid 2 makes it past $10 million.