Meanwhile, The Gunman and Do You Believe? will likely battle for third place with less than $10 million.
Opening at 3,875 theaters, The Divergent Series: Insurgent reaches theaters exactly a year after its predecessor. That movie opened to $54.6 million, held well, and closed with $150.9 million. That wasn't at the same level as the first Twilight movie—much less the first Hunger Games movie—but it was still a strong result for a young-adult adaptation.
Marketing for Insurgent has positioned it as an intense, action-packed sci-fi thriller, which is noticeably different from the first movie's sci-fi romance sell. There's also been an emphasis on the movie's visual effects sequences, which seem to be more significant this time around. All of this gives off the impression that Lionsgate/Summit is trying to broaden the movie's appeal outside of the core young female audience. Divergent's demographic breakdown was 41 percent male on opening weekend; look for that number to increase a bit this time around.
Another thing working in Insurgent's favor is the cast's increased star power. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort got a boost from The Fault in our Stars, while Miles Teller's star has risen thanks to Whiplash and the upcoming Fantastic Four. None of these are game-changers, but they should be a net positive.
There are two big question marks here, though. First, how much of Divergent's theatrical audience can Insurgent retain? That movie received the kind of poor reviews and lukewarm word-of-mouth that suggest some more casual viewers may bail this time around. Second, did Divergent make new fans via DVD/cable? It's tough to make much of an assessment here, and again the movie's mixed quality could mute the impact of this.
From the first to second installment, the Twilight franchise doubled its opening weekend attendance. The Hunger Games, on the other hand, didn't make any kind of significant gains. It's likely that the Divergent series winds up being more like Hunger Games here, which would put it in the $50 to $60 million range this weekend.
Insurgent should at least improve on Divergent at the international box office. As previously noted, the movie has more action and stronger visual effects, both of which tend to increase a movie's foreign sales. It should also benefit from the addition of 3D, which almost always provides a big boost overseas. The first movie made a so-so $138 million overseas; if it follows the same pattern as the Hunger Games franchise (up 56 percent from first to second), Insurgent will earn over $210 million.
Playing at 2,816 theaters, The Gunman stars Sean Penn as a retired assassin who is forced back in to action after he becomes the target. If this sounds familiar, that's because it is: in the years since Taken, this type of aging star action movie has become a major subgenre.
Unfortunately, it's not so easy to replicate Liam Neeson's success here. Last year, Kevin Costner's 3 Days to Kill and Pierce Brosnan's The November Man topped out at $30.7 million and $25 million, respectively. Neeson himself has also had a tough go of it lately, with A Walk Among the Tombstones and Run All Night disappointing.
While The Gunman may feel like another Taken rip-off, it does at least have that movie's director, Pierre Morel, at the helm. Unfortunately, "from the director of Taken" didn't really move the needle for Morel's last movie, From Paris with Love, which wrapped up with $24 million.
Ultimately, The Gunman looks too redundant to really break out. The November Man opened to $7.9 million last August; a similar result seems likely for The Gunman.
Faith-based drama Do You Believe? is debuting at 1,320 locations this weekend, and has a realistic shot at actually opening higher than The Gunman. The movie is the latest from the producers of God's Not Dead, which opened to $9.2 million on this same weekend last year. That movie went on to earn over $60 million, making it one of the biggest surprise hits of 2014.
It's unlikely that Do You Believe? will be able to replicate that movie's success, though it doesn't mean it won't do well in its own right. According to Pure Flix Entertainment, the marketing push on Do You Believe? is similar to that of God's Not Dead. Instead of spending on TV spots, they've focused on a grassroots campaign aimed at converting churchgoers in to moviegoers.
Do You Believe? does seem to have overly faith-affirming content, which is always a plus for movies like this. It also has a decent cast—though no one is bringing the same attention as Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson—and includes a song from popular Christian rock band Newsboys (aptly titled "We Believe").
Pure Flix Entertainment is expecting the movie to open around $5.5 million this weekend. Don't be surprised if it tips a bit higher—perhaps closer to $7 million—which would put it neck-and-neck with The Gunman.
Danny Collins, the first release from upstart distributor Bleecker Street, opens at five locations this weekend. The movie has a top-level cast—Al Pacino, Jennifer Garner, Annette Bening—and has been marketing pretty heavily at these key arthouse theaters. Unfortunately, its also received mixed reviews (58 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), which can be problematic for this type of release. Look for a solid per-theater average—at least $20,000—this weekend.
Forecast (March 20-22)
1. Insurgent - $53 million
2. Cinderella - $37.3 million (-45%)
3. The Gunman - $7 million
4. Do You Believe? - $6.5 million
5. Run All Night - $5.3 million (-52%)
Bar for Success
Divergent opened to $54.6 million on this same weekend last year; Insurgent doesn't quite need to match that, but it should be hitting at least $50 million. The Gunman is in fine shape if it reaches $10 million, while Do You Believe is a modest hit at $5 million.
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