Divergent has been primed to be the next big YA movie franchise, but will not-so-good reviews stall its takeover?
Reviews for the movie based on the first in Veronica Roth's book trilogy about a dystopian Chicago divided into factions started coming out Sunday, and they were not raves, to say the least. Sheri Linden at The Hollywood Reporter wrote, for instance, that "the clunky result is almost unrelentingly grim." The film is currently only 33 percent fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. That could definitely change as more reviews get added, but it doesn't look great.
So will that hurt its box office potential? Yes and no.
Back in early March, The Hollywood Reporter's Pamela McClintock explained that Divergent was tracking similarly to the first Twilight movie, which made $69.6 million in 2008. For what it's worth, the first Twilight ended up with a 49 percent fresh rating, and hails from the same studio, Summit. Summit's parent company Lionsgate produces The Hunger Games. Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations Co. told The Wire in an interview yesterday that $70 million is now looking like a "best case scenario" for the film, and predicted the film will probably end up with an opening weekend between $55 million and $60 million.
Divergent certainly won't be a bomb along the lines of other recent stabs at YA glory like Beautiful Creatures, which opened at $7.5 million, or The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, which opened at $9.3 million. "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," Ray Subers wrote at Box Office Mojo.
Bad reception, though, could hurt getting adults into the theater. "A majority of teens aren’t going to read the reviews anyway," Bock said. But adult appeal is the "recipe for enormous success," Ben Schrank of Penguin Random House's YA imprint Razorbill told Kyle Buchanan of Vulture last year. And it's adults, Bock says, who are most likely to be affected by bad reviews.
Despite the reviews, however, reactions from some fans who have gotten the chance to see the final product have been positive. On one forum, a fan wrote: "It was soooooo amazing!!!!! But im depressed that Uriah isn't in it, which was a major let down. I COULDNT WATCH THE FERRIS WHEEL SCENE I DIED FROM CUTENESS!" The Twitter account Divergent Lexicon tweeted: "Finished watching @Divergent! Immediate Reaction? "Amazing. Best movie I've seen in a long time. Made me laugh & cry" #DivergentDetroit." A Bustle post features the headline: "First 'Divergent' Reviews Are Bad, But Here are 4 Reasons You Should Still See It." The movie also has the support of the series' creator Roth, who declared on her blog that she "loved it."
Divergent may not be a Hunger Games-level hit, and fans are correct to be bummed that Uriah isn't in it, but disaster doesn't seem to be in the cards, at least financially.