March 21, 2016 2:41 pm

‘Allegiant’ box office flop: Lionsgate in trouble as young-adult franchise flounders

Theo James and Shailene Woodley in the third movie of the 'Divergent' franchise, 'Allegiant.'

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It’s hard to keep track of the young-adult movie franchises that have hit theatres over the past several years, but it’s safe to say there have been a lot, and in terms of plot and character, they’re essentially cookie-cutter replicas of each other.

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One of the most successful franchises, The Hunger Games, was a runaway hit, but as the franchise went on, interest waned and it showed in the box-office numbers. The final and fourth movie, Mockingjay Part 2, went out with a comparative whimper, amassing $101 million on its opening weekend — and many people credit film studio Lionsgate’s relentless marketing for its performance. In contrast, the second film in the franchise, Catching Fire, brought in a record-breaking $158 million, while the inaugural The Hunger Games took in approximately $152 million.

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Flash forward to now, and the anticipated success of the Divergent series has failed to materialize for Lionsgate. Allegiant, the third film in the Divergent franchise, opened to a lacklustre $29 million. (Not helping matters is the film’s current Rotten Tomatoes score, an abysmal 10 per cent.)

That represents a 44 per cent drop from the debut of second film Insurgent at $52.3 million, and a 46 per cent decline from the first Divergent movie at $54.6 million. As a result, Lionsgate’s stock was down nearly 3 per cent on Monday morning.

It’s a new low for the YA series based on Veronica Roth’s novels. Lionsgate broke up Roth’s final book into two movies, the second of which, Ascendant, launches next year. And, like vampire franchise Twilight and Hunger Games, it’s not unusual for Part 1 of a two-film finale to fall short of some of its predecessors.

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“It’s had mixed results in general, but it’s also had great results so I can’t really fault a studio for going with that strategy,” said Paul Dergarabedian, comScore’s senior media analyst. “It’s like skipping ahead in a book. I think it’s a strategy that may want to be reconsidered. But there are other factors — is the movie good? What are the conditions of the marketplace?”

Dergarabedian also noted that the fickleness of the teen audience might be playing into the big drop from the previous films.

“They’re chasing an audience that is very difficult to pin down,” he said. “What might be cool to them one day isn’t cool the next.”

Certainly, Divergent hasn’t come close to the success of Twilight or The Hunger Games. The subject matter, too, might be overly familiar at this point. All three franchises feature a love triangle, a woman rebelling against the “norm” in order to save her family or loved one(s), and a group of misfits banding together to defeat a common, powerful foe.

“It’s a series that has clearly lost momentum,” said Eric Handler, an analyst with MKM Partners, to Variety. “This is a case where a fourth chapter did not seem like the way to go.”

WATCH: Shailene Woodley, Theo James talk third Divergent movie, Allegiant

Lionsgate is in a tough spot at the moment, with several flops under its belt over the past year, including Gods of Egypt, Mortdecai, and The Last Witch Hunter, not to mention the ending of Hunger Games. To make matters worse, Batman v. Superman opens next weekend, all but guaranteeing to capture the movie-going audiences. It’s anticipated to blow any other competition out of the water.

“The company now is going to be pressed to shift from the Hunger Games and Divergent era of big-budget franchises to return to its core roots of moderate- and smaller-budgeted films,” said Tuna Amobi, an S&P Capital IQ analyst. “There are going to be more risk mitigators.”

With files from The Associated Press

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