4TH WRITETHRU, Saturday 9AM: With Lionsgate’s threequel The Divergent Series: Allegiant opening at No. 2 with an estimated $29.4M behind Disney’s Zootopia which is holding No. 1 with $38.4M, the big question this weekend is why would a studio split the last novel of a cult book series into two movies when that title polarized its fans?

In the wake of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, adapting the last book of a YA series into two big event films has become de rigueur. Financial and creative justifications abound from Twilight: Breaking Dawn to The Hobbit. When the B.O. began sliding on The Hunger Games between Catching Fire and both installments of Mockingjay, Deadline commenters griped that Lionsgate was going for a “cash grab.” Still Mockingjay’s respective huge November openings of $125M and $102.7M and its final stateside totals of $337.1M and $281.7M prove that there’s still an excellent business in diving up a title, especially when a book series boasts a huge, dedicated fanbase.

But The Divergent  Series never had the mass appeal of those earlier titles at the B.O. And in the case of Allegiant, it’s difficult to find any business sense in separating the book into two parts. As one rival distribution honcho screamed today about Liongate’s plan, “They’re bleeding a franchise!” Allegiant reportedly cost just as much as Insurgent at $110M and carries the same estimated theatrical P&A at $45M. However Allegiant, pained by a B CinemaScore next to the previous two titles A and A- grades, will be lucky to top off at $80M at the domestic box office. ComScore PostTrak cites that only 51% of Allegiant‘s ticket buyers would recommend it to their friends (not good). Meanwhile, Allegiant‘s second half, Ascendant, doesn’t open until June 9, 2017.

allegiant posterWhen Lionsgate and the Divergent filmmakers made the decision in April 2014 to break Allegiant into two movies, they already knew that fans were divided over the novel’s ending (for those who haven’t read the books, we have yet to witness a hell of a finale). Following Allegiant’s publication in 2013, fans were tweeting out responses like “I feel like I should wear a badge today saying, ‘I finished #Allegiant. Hug me’” and “Finished #Allegiant the other day- why @VeronicaRoth, why?” as well as “After I read Allegiant I watched Titanic to cheer me up.” Since the novel left such a bitter taste in fans’ mouths, why the heck would one even attempt to milk whatever is left of their enthusiasm for the property over two movies? Nonetheless, the distrib’s impetus for two Allegiant movies was the fact that the Divergent book series sold over 35M copies around the globe.

The Divergent Series was a decent cash cow at the B.O. with Divergent making $288.9M worldwide and Insurgent grossing $297.3M. We always knew that these films didn’t have the uber-four quad appeal of Twilight and The Hunger Games. At 526 pages in its original print, Allegiant wasn’t that much longer than Insurgent (525 pages) or Divergent (487 pages), nor was it as thick as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (759 pages).  Again, creatively speaking – why break Allegiant up? Just cut to the chase and get to that controversial ending.

insurgentSplitting up Allegiant arguably equates to a scenario of greater costs against depreciating revenues for a title lucky to break even. Allegiant’s opening is 44% off from Insurgent’s $52.2 debut a year ago, and rest assured, grosses will continue to plummet for Ascendant. In regard to Allegiant‘s overseas B.O. (which counted close to $25M last weekend), Lionsgate isn’t apt to see any of it since they sold off foreign rights to cover stateside production costs. Domestic B.O. between Divergent and Insurgent fell from $150.9M to $130.2M and while that 14% slide might seem like an acceptable drop for a sequel, film finance analysts have told Deadline that the profit between those two titles (inclusive of home entertainment and TV revs) fell 58% from $71.9M to $30.6M. [Insurgent’s total revenue across all streams is estimated at $247.9M while its totals costs across home video, domestic P&A, residuals, participations, interest, etc. is figured at $217.3M).

The multiple connected with a B CinemaScore is 2.9. But who knows if Allegiant will even hit that: The first two Divergents, despite their A and A- CinemaScore, played below the multiples associated with those grades at a respective 2.76 and 2.5. Sixty-five percent of Allegiant’s crowd was comprised of women (no surprise), which isn’t that far from Insurgent’s 63% for the demo. However, the audience did get younger with Allegiant drawing 52% under 25 to Insurgent’s 47% under 25.

Allegiant falling apart isn’t about its release date on the calendar; Lionsgate has carved out a nice annual home for the series in March. Marketing is debatable. Trailers show much of the same as Insurgent, if not Maze Runner: Teens revolting in an apocalyptic world. Critics aren’t helping Allegiant at 10% Rotten. For them it’s the worst of the three next to Divergent’s 40% Rotten and Insurgent’s 29%. Insurgent had more As and A-s among its various age groups. The 25-34 crowd stayed faithful between parts 3 and 2 keeping their grade at A-, but they only repped 16% of all ticket buyers this time around.

Social Media Monitor RelishMix shows a strong reach for Allegiant with a universe of 153.8M, of which there’s 127M YouTube views earning a viral pass-around ratio of 17:1 for its video clips. On the downside, the leading star Shailene Woodley, who counts 1.1M Twitter followers, isn’t tweeting about the movie, instead aggressively campaigning for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Leading hunk Theo James also isn’t activated socially. In fact, co-star Ansel Elgort has the most social cache with 9.5M combined Twitter and Instagram followers, and he’s been a trooper about spreading the word for Allegiant.

Whenever the stars don’t have a social footprint, the studio makes a point to get them out there. In partnership with Facebook and Fandango, Lionsgate streamed The Divergent Series: Allegiant premiere arrivals. The hour-long live stream, using Facebook Live, had 880K views in 24 hours and reached 7.6 Million fans with shared promotion across the Divergent Series, Fandango, and Facebook Celebs and Movie pages.

Lionsgate also utilized three of Snapchat’s most efficient ad products throughout its campaign, including two custom ‘Sponsored Lens’ executions, multiple video ad interstitials across Snapchat ‘Discover’ channels, and a geo-targeted Movie Theater Filter last week. Across these efforts, Allegiant earned over 90MM views total on Snapchat alone. These activations were championed by celebrity endorsers including Kylie Jenner and Ashley Benson, as well as Allegiant cast members Elgort and Daniel Dae Kim.

The Bronze Movie ReviewBuried on the chart, and I had to blink several times when I saw this (I thought it was a mistake) was The Bronze. It appears as though Sony Pictures Classics dumped this Melissa Rauch gymnast dramedy into 1,167 theaters. The distributor is a big believer in platforming releases around the country, and it’s not often that they go wide with a pic during its opening frame. With an industry-projected FSS of $390K, The Bronze isn’t the lowest wide opening of all-time, but it’s damn sure close. Among films that debuted in over 1,000 theaters, The Bronze is currently the fourth lowest (the goat horns for the bottom belongs to Full Circle’s 2009 title Transylmania with $264K at 1,007 venues). We’ve seen TV spots for The Bronze, but there weren’t enough to register on iSpot.TV’s meter. The Bronze opened last year’s Sundance Film Festival and was originally acquired by Relativity for $3M, with a nice screen commitment and P&A attached. Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions got the movie back from Relativity, terminating the beleaguered studio’s rights, and thereby removing Bronze from the company’s assets before it filed for Chapter 11. Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions’ label Stage 6 Films acquired worldwide rights to The Bronze prior to the start of the production and is handling overseas distribution.

Zootopia will cross the $200M mark by Sunday. Disney Animation’s all-time hit Frozen ($400M domestic) didn’t hit that mark until the middle of its fourth week.

MIRACLES FROM HEAVENThere was a second wide release this weekend and that was Sony/Affirm’s Miracles From Heaven. It made an estimated $4M on Friday, +150% over Thursday with its FSS looking at $12.47M in third and a five-day take between $16M. The Patricia Riggen-directed movie carries an estimated thrifty production cost of $13M. RelishMix observes that Miracles From Heaven has a strong SMU of 74.7M. The entire cast is promoting the film aggressively across their social channels, with Eugenio Derbez the champ at 21M followers across FB, Twitter and Instagram, followed by Queen Latifah at 15.5M, producer T.D. Jakes at 8.3M and Jennifer Garner with fewer than 1M Facebook followers. Derbez and Riggen pulled in the Hispanic audience, which comprised a third of all moviegoers. Miracles From Heaven is the third Sony faith-based title to earn an A+ and fifth in the series with A grades. If the pic beats the $11.8M opening of Risen, it will be the second highest opening for a Sony/Affirm title since Heaven Is For Real‘s $22.5M.

MIDNIGHT SPECIALWarner Bros. is pulling in a fantastic per theater of $40K with Midnight Special, further propped by sellout Q&A shows with director Jeff Nichols at the Hollywood Arclight and Landmark on Pico Boulevard. The movie is also in play in Austin, TX and New York City and looks to make an estimated $199K this weekend. WB plans to widen Midnight Special starting April 1.

Industry-calculated weekend estimates (not studio-reported) for the weekend of March 18-20:

1). Zootopia (DIS), 3,959 theaters (+132)/ $9.7M Fri. (-19%)/ 3-day cume: $38.4M (-25%)/Total Cume: $202.2M/Wk 3

2).Allegiant (LG), 3,740 theaters/ $11.9M Fri.* / 3-day cume: $29.4M Wk 1
*includes $2.35M in Thursday previews

3).Miracles From Heaven (SONY), 3,047 theaters/ $4.1M Fri. / 3-day cume: $12.47M/Total Cume: $16M Wk 1
Bowed Wednesday

4).10 Cloverfield Lane (PAR), 3,427 theaters (+36)/ $3.7M Fri. (-59%) / 3-day cume: $12.44M (-50%)/Total cume: $45.1M Wk 2

5). Deadpool (FOX), 2,924 theaters (-407) / $2.2M Fri. (-27%) / 3-day cume: $8.1M (-27%) Total Cume: $341M Wk 6

6). London Has Fallen (FOC), 3,011 theaters (-481)/ $1.8M Fri. (-40%)/ 3-day cume: $6.6M (-39%)/Total Cume: $49.8M/ Wk 3

7). Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (PAR), 2,079 theaters (-334)/ $762K Fri. (-43%) / 3-day cume: $2.6M (-44%) /Total Cume: $19.1M /Wk 3

8) The Perfect Match (LG), 925 theaters (0)/ $582K Fri. (-63%)/ 3-day cume: $1.99M (-54%)/Total Cume: $7.4M/ Wk 2

9.) The Brothers Grimsby (SONY), 2,235 theaters (0)/ $417K  Fri. (-65%) / 3-day cume: $1.3M (-60%) /Total cume: $5.9MWk 2

10). The Revenant (FOX), 935 theaters (-368) / $315K Fri.  (-41%) / 3-day cume: $1.2M (-40%) / Total cume: $181.1M / Wk 13


The Young Messiah (FOC), 1,769 theaters (+8)/ $288K Fri. (-79%)/ 3-day cume: $989K (-70%) /Total cume:$5.3M/ Wk 2

Hello, My Name Is Doris (RSA), 128 theaters (+124)/ $260K Fri. (+983%) / 3-day cume: $883K (+939%)/PTA: $6K/Total Cume:$1M/ Wk 2

Kapoor & Sons – Since 1921 (FIP), 143 theaters/ $275K Fri. / 3-day cume: $863K /PTA: $5KWk 1

The Bronze (FIP), 1,167 theaters/ $128K Fri. / 3-day cume: $390K /PTA: $334Wk 1

Eye in the Sky (BLST), 35 theaters (+30)/ $107K Fri. (+224%) / 3-day cume: $371K (+225%)/PTA: $10K/Total Cume: $523K/ Wk 2

Midnight Special (WB), 5 theaters/ $61K Fri. / 3-day cume: $199K /PTA: $40KWk 1

2ND UPDATE, 12:17 PM: Lionsgate’s The Divergent Series: Allegiant is looking to win Friday with an estimated $11.57 million, and the threequel is expected to end out at $30M for the weekend. Even though Disney’s Zootopia is estimated only at $8.5M today, it will have the benefit of weekend matinees and should finish the frame at No. 1 overall again with $33M.

As is typical with the previous Divergent films, the core young-girl demographic shows up on Friday night and gradually tapers throughout the weekend.

At No. 3 is Sony/Affirm’s Miracles From Heaven, which is looking at $4.5M for Friday and $14M-$15M for the weekend. Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox’s Deadpool is looking to make $6M-$6.5M on FSS in its sixth frame.

1st UDPATE, 7:54 AM: Lionsgate’s The Divergent Series: Allegiant got a jump at the weekend box office with Thursday previews of $2.35M at 2,800 venues. That figure files behind the first Divergent‘s Thursday of $4.9M followed by last March’s Insurgent, which made $4.1M. Despite being third in the series, Allegiant did clock more last night than both Maze Runner titles, which respectively grossed $1.1M and $1.7M from their Thursday previews, and opened to $32.5M and $30.3M. Industry analysts expect Disney’s animal toon Zootopia and Lionsgate’s YA gang to arm-wrestle for No. 1 this weekend, with both looking at a FSS in the low- to mid-$30M range. By mid-day, we’ll have a better idea at which way the weekend is going since 33% of all colleges are on break and 22% K-12 schools according to ComScore.

Allegiant will be shown in Imax and PLF this time around. Insurgent was shown in those formats, but also had an extra boost from 3D. Already, Allegiant has made north of $26M from 45 territories and it opens in Germany, Mexico, Denmark and Norway this weekend. Similar to its YA feature adaptation The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Lionsgate split up the last of Veronica Roth’s Divergent novels into two movies; The Divergent Series: Ascendant hits theaters next summer, on June 9, 2017, where it will square off against Universal’s Tom Cruise take on The Mummy and Paramount’s World War Z 2. 

MIRACLES FROM HEAVENZootopia was the No. 1 film on Thursday with $4.5M, off 1% from Wednesday, at 3,827 theaters. Through two weeks, Zootopia has collected $163.8M. Sony/Affirm’s faith-based memoir feature adaptation Miracles From Heaven made $1.66M in its second day, off 12%, for a two-day take of $3.5M. That dip between day one and two indicates that strong word of mouth is working in Miracles’ favor. The Jennifer Garner-Eugenio Derbez combo should make another $10M over the next three days. At 10 PM last night, 65 of Miracle‘s top 100 grosses were in Texas, and the Hispanic locations across the country were making a positive impact at multiplex cash registers.

Also opening this weekend on the studio side is Warner Bros.’ Midnight Special from Mud director Jeff Nichols. Pic follows a young boy with a special gift who along with his parents and a friend, are being pursued by the Feds. Pic premiered at the Berlinale and SXSW. It is rolling out in Austin, New York and Los Angeles at five locations with an eye at a per-theater take of $20K-$25K. A Wednesday night screening at CAA attended by Nichols, Chris Pratt, Bill Hader, Nick Kroll and Silicon Valley‘s Zach Woods received great applause. Midnight Special carries an 85% fresh Rotten Tomatoes score.