"Divergent," the teenage sci-fi drama starring Shailene Woodley, left the box-office competition in the dust Friday, selling an estimated $22.8 million in ticket sales on 3,936 screens for a healthy per screen average of $5,793.
While "Divergent" was expected to have an impressive debut, perhaps the biggest surprise so far is the small religious movie "God's Not Dead," which is on track to be the No. 3 movie this weekend.
The film, which Lionsgate's Summit Entertainment hopes will be the studio's next successful young adult franchise a la "The Hunger Games" and "Twilight," also took in $4.9 million at Thursday night showings.
Early estimates anticipated that "Divergent," based on the young adult novel series by Veronica Roth, would make rake in between $50 million and $55 million in its opening weekend, which is impressive, but not close to the 2008 "Twilight" opening weekend of $70 million or the $152.5 million for "The Hunger Games" in 2012.
The follow-up to "Divergent," which is expected to be released next year, has been given the green-light by Lionsgate.
The weekend's other major opening, the family comedy "Muppets Most Wanted," is an underachiever so far. The film, which finds Kermit in a dual role as himself and a mastermind criminal, was expected to make $25 million in its first weekend. However, "Muppets" just managed an estimated $4.6 million Friday on 3,194 screens and could take in less than $20 million for the weekend.
Perhaps the biggest surprise so far is the small religious movie "God's Not Dead," which is on track to be the No. 3 movie this weekend.
The independent drama, which stars Kevin Sorbo of "Hercules" fame, Dean Cain and Willie and Korie Robertson of "Duck Dynasty," was a strong performer Friday, placing third with an estimated $2.8 on just 780 screens.
"God's Not Dead" follows on the heels of "Son of God," which earned an estimated $660,000 Friday for a total of $53.6 million since the religious drama about the life of Jesus Christ opened Feb. 28.
Several other religious-themed movies are scheduled for this year including Darren Aronofsky's $130-million "Noah," which opens next Friday.
Last week's No. 1 film, the animated "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" dropped to fourth with a Friday estimate of $2.7 million for a total of about $72 million so far.
"Need for Speed" stalled in its second weekend with an estimated $2.2 million Friday.
Wes Anderson's acclaimed "The Grand Budapest Hotel" continues to put out a welcome mat for audiences as it expands into more theaters. The film took in an estimated $1.8 million on just 304 screens for a total of about $8 million so far.