Young adults again proved their box office might as "The Divergent Series: Insurgent" launched to a studio-estimated $54 million this weekend in the U.S. and Canada.
Although the film from Lionsgate's Summit Entertainment topped the box office, it fell slightly short of the studio's initial forecast of $55 million to $60 million. "Insurgent" opened on par with its predecessor, "Divergent," which debuted with $54.6 million last year.
"Insurgent," which follows a young woman (Shailene Woodley) fighting for freedom and survival in a dystopian society, pulled in about $47 million in 76 international markets, bringing its total global haul to about $101 million. It was the No. 1 film in 66 markets around the world.
"We are in a very good place both domestically and nationally," said Richie Fay, Lionsgate's president of domestic theatrical distribution. "It looks like audiences like the movie."
The Robert Schwentke-directed film, which cost $110 million to make and is based on popular novels by Veronica Roth, averaged only a 34% positive rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes but earned a solid A-minus score from audience polling firm CinemaScore.
Fay attributed star power as key to luring moviegoers. Woodley, who starred in popular indie film "The Spectacular Now" and Alexander Payne's "The Descendants," has proved her box office might, especially among young audiences.
Last June, the teen tear-jerker "The Fault in Our Stars," based on the book by John Green, opened in the U.S. and Canada with $48.2 million. It went on to make $124.9 million domestically.
Woodley's co-stars in "Insurgent" are Miles Teller (her love interest in "The Spectacular Now"), Ansel Elgort (her love interest in "The Fault in Our Stars") and Theo James -- also rising stars in young Hollywood.
Lionsgate's marketing campaign included a Google hangout, social media fan interaction and a SnapChat-exclusive trailer. The studio also partnered with Samsung to create "Insurgent: Shatter Reality," a four-minute virtual reality experience that puts moviegoers in the world of the film with the stars. The VR feature toured the U.S., including a stop Austin at the South by Southwest festival, and was available at more than 100 Best Buy locations.
The result: audiences that were young (55% younger than 25) and female (60%), although the ratio of males was higher than for the first "Divergent" film. Fay said that change was a result of Lionsgate's efforts to expand beyond the franchise's female following.
"When you have a core audience, you have to say 'OK, where can we grow?'" Fay said. "We had a great IMAX presence, which plays more to the male and fanboy audiences in general."
The film pulled in $3.6 million on 356 IMAX screens in the U.S. and Canada.
In second place at the box office: Disney's live action version of "Cinderella," which fell 49% in its second weekend but still added $34.5 million to its domestic gross. The film, which cost $95 million to make, has been propelled by positive word of mouth reflected in an A-grade on CinemaScore. It crossed the $120-million mark in the U.S. and Canada and has made more than $250 million globally.
Warner Bros.' "Run All Night" finished third for the weekend and added $5.1 million. The film, which stars Liam Neeson as a hitman fighting to save his son, has made $19.7 million since its launch last week. The film cost about $50 million to make.
"The Gunman," released by Open Road Films, flopped in its debut with a $5-million opening, good for fourth place. The action thriller, which cost about $40 million to make, follows a former Special Forces soldier (Sean Penn) with post traumatic stress disorder. It co-stars Javier Bardem, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone and Mark Rylance.
"Kingsman: The Secret Service" rounded out the top five, adding $4.6 million in its sixth weekend. The film has made about $114.6 million domestically to date.
Faith-based drama "Do You Believe?" came in at sixth with a $4 million opening. The film is from the creators of "God's Not Dead," which opened a year ago with a surprisingly strong $9.2 million. Though some religious dramas have found success at the domestic box office, "Do You Believe?" failed to draw in its target audience.
The film, backed by Pure Flix Entertainment, follows a pastor and a street-corner preacher. It stars Mira Sorvino, Lee Majors, Cybill Shepherd and Ted McGinley.
The box office was down about 8.1% from the same weekend last year but is up 4.2% year to date.
Next weekend, Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell's comedy "Get Hard" and animated film "Home" are expected to provide solid counterprogramming for moviegoers. April is also poised to kick off strong at the box office with the debut of "Furious 7."
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