Weekend Box Office: Lions Gate Shares Rise on Big ‘Divergent’ Win, ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ Falls Flat

While "Divergent" easily won the weekend and has a sequel on the way, "Muppets Most Wanted" just couldn't live up to its name.

Mar 24, 2014 at 2:59PM


Divergent was dominant in its first weekend box office. Credit: Lions Gate, Disney.

It's official, Divergent fans: Your favorite novel-based dystopian future just cemented its status as Lions Gate's (NYSE:LGF) next big movie franchise.

Divergent easily won the top spot at this weekend's box office, collecting a massive $56 million from domestic audiences. At first glance, however, that may seem disappointing as it's well below both Lions Gate's $85 million budget and the $70 million earned by the first Twilight film more than five years ago.

So why are shares of Lions Gate up more than 2% so far today?

First, Divergent's impressive Thursday evening sales alone proved more than enough for Lions Gate to greenlight the second movie in the trilogy. We don't have a specific timeline yet, but it'll be titled Insurgent.

And why not? The namesake novels from author Veronica Roth only got more popular with each release. The third book, titled Allegiant, even outsold the final Hunger Games by a five-to-one margin on Amazon.com in the month leading up to its release. When it finally was released on Oct. 22, Allegiant set a new first-day record for HarperCollins by selling an amazing 455,000 copies. 

Next, despite generally unfavorable reviews from critics, polled audiences granted Lions Gate's Divergent movie a coveted "A" CinemaScore. That's not just die-hard Divergent fans speaking, either, so the film should enjoy universally positive word of mouth going forward. All things considered, don't be surprised if Divergent makes a global run at $350 million by the time it exits theaters -- not a huge number by any means, but a strong start to a promising franchise.

Muppets Most (un)Wanted
Divergent also more than tripled the $16.5 million debut earned by Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Muppets Most Wanted, which itself required a $50 million production budget and fell far short of early expectations in the $25 million range.

For perspective, 2011's The Muppets cost $5 million less to create, and opened to a solid $29.2 million en route to a $165.2 million global cume. If Muppets Most Wanted follows a similar trajectory over the next few months, it could struggle to break $95 million worldwide. 

To its credit, Muppets Most Wanted did seem to put a dent in the momentum of DreamWorks Animation's (NASDAQ:DWA) reigning box office championMr. Peabody & Sherman. The animated flick fell a larger-than-expected 46.4% to $11.7 million for third place in its third week. Mr. Peabody & Sherman also gleaned roughly the same amount overseas, bringing the global total of DreamWorks' latest $145 million effort to $183.2 million.

Two surprising overseas hits
Meanwhile, Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX) Warner Bros' 300: Rise of an Empire finished fourth with roughly $8.7 million, bringing its domestic cume to $93.8 million after three weekends. 

This might seem discouraging since the original 300 had already earned nearly $162 million domestically by this point in 2007, but keep in mind Time Warner's $110 million sequel/prequel (side-quel?) is still strikingly popular overseas. Rise of an Empire simultaneously added another $21 million internationally this weekend, bringing its worldwide gross to $289.2 million. Not too shabby for a movie many quickly dubbed a failure even after its dominant start earlier this month.

Finally, Disney/Dreamworks Studios' tag team effort in Need for Speed continued to crash hard in the U.S., falling 56.4% from its disappointing debut last weekend to $7.8 million. Heck, even the 780-theater release of Freestyle's God's Not Dead managed to usurp the relatively new $66 million racing movie. Once again, though, international movie-goers came to the rescue by adding $29.2 million, making Need for Speed the world's second-highest grossing movie behind Divergent and bringing its worldwide total to $126.5 million.

In the end, this goes to show that while the U.S. box office is the world's largest, it isn't always the best indicator of a film's prospects.

Your pop culture knowledge isn't just entertaining...
Next weekend should be interesting, too, as Paramount brings its own big budget blockbuster hopeful to theaters with Noah. I'll be sure to touch base before then to let you know how each top contender will fare.

In the meantime, I'll admit movies are great fun, but I want to highlight another reason we spend so much time writing about the business of comics, movies, TV, and video games. Like you, we're fans of all those things, but we're also experienced investors, and we want to help you turn your knowledge of all things geek into cold, hard cash. That's why we put together The Motley Fool's free guide to help new investors get started. Seriously, it's free -- so click here to get your copy today.

Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, DreamWorks Animation, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

©1995-2014 The Motley Fool. All rights reserved. | Privacy/Legal Information