Teen sci-fi should rule the box office this weekend, with the highly anticipated "Divergent" poised for a strong launch of a new franchise.
"Divergent," from Lionsgate's Summit Entertainment, could generate $55 million or more in ticket sales from the U.S. and Canada through Sunday, according to people who have seen prerelease audience surveys.
Meanwhile, Disney's "Muppets Most Wanted" should gross around $25 million in a solid debut.
Summit is hoping for another successful young-adult series after the five "Twilight" movies, based on the teen vampire books by Stephenie Meyer, grossed about $3.34 billion worldwide.
"Divergent" may not open with quite as much revenue as the first installment of the "Twilight" saga, which took off in 2008 with nearly $70 million. The new effort, with a production budget of $85 million, also cost more to make than "Twilight."
Still, a weekend with sales of more than $50 million would mark a robust opening.
Not all young-adult adaptations have drawn big audiences to theaters. Last year, "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" disappointed with a total of just $31 million from its full domestic run.
Reviews for "Divergent," directed by Neil Burger of "Limitless" and "The Illusionist," have been mostly negative, as indicated by a roughly 30% "fresh" rating from Rotten Tomatoes as of Thursday.
But that doesn't mean the picture's core audience of young women won't turn out. According to surveys, roughly a third of the young female demographic have indicated the film is their first choice.
It could make for a mainstream breakout success for actress Shailene Woodley, probably best known for starring in the ABC Family series "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," along with film roles in "The Spectacular Now" and Alexander Payne's "The Descendants."
Like the massively successful "Hunger Games" blockbusters, "Divergent" centers on a female protagonist in a dystopian future. Woodley plays Tris, a young woman in a society that uses a test to group young people by distinct traits, but Tris fits no set category.
"Muppets Most Wanted," arriving in theaters with strong reviews, is on track to perform about as well as its successful 2011 predecessor "The Muppets," which opened with $29 million before securing a total of $88.6 million domestically.
The new comedy, in which the Muppets become entangled with an international criminal who looks exactly like Kermit the Frog, stars humans Tina Fey, Ty Burrell and Ricky Gervais alongside the venerable Jim Henson characters. It cost $55 million to make.
In the family-film market, "Muppets Most Wanted" is going up against DreamWorks Animation's "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" and Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow's "Lego Movie."
Opening in fewer than 800 theaters is the Christian drama "God's Not Dead." The movie from Pure Flix Entertainment and Red Entertainment Group is the latest in a recent series of religion-themed pictures. "God's Not Dead," about a college student whose faith is tested, is not getting nearly the same push as "Son of God," a New Testament retelling released late last month.
This year's slate of biblical and religious movies includes "Noah," which opens next weekend, followed by "Heaven is for Real" and "Exodus."
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