Something had to give. The Divergent Series: Allegiant debuted this weekend, bringing in the franchise's lowest opening at the box office. Lionsgate investors were understandably not happy about the third movie's performance, and now it is being reported that The Divergent Series: Ascendant, the fourth and final film, will have its budget slashed. Though it isn't known by how much, or how this will effect the series' climax.
The Divergent Series: Ascendant is set to start shooting this summer. Based on Veronica Roth's young adult novels, The Divergent series had its finale expanded to two films, even though there are only three books. This was upsetting to some fans, with the trend of splitting the final movie into two-parts falling out of favor with audiences. Says a source close to the production.
"The budget for the next one will be reduced [compared to the previous film]. They haven't said by how much."
Sources claim that The Divergent Series: Allegiant had a budget of $110 million. At this time, The Divergent Series: Ascendant is still being written There is no final budget to determine just yet. The source goes onto state that at least several million dollars will be shaved off the final projected budget. The series has arrived as a disappointment for Lionsgate, who hoped that Divergent would be a franchise on par with their other YA adaptations The Hunger Games and Twilight, especially with a star like Shailene Woodley at the forefront of the action.
But The Divergent Series: Allegiant only pulled in an estimated $29.1 million during its opening weekend. This was down 44% from The Divergent Series: Insurgent, which arrived around the same time last year. The latest sequel is also struggling overseas, where it only pulled in $54 million from international markets, landing with a global tally of $83 million. States box-office analyst Jeff Bock about the latest sequel's downfall.
"The core of the story is being hollowed out by splitting the final novel [into two parts] and spiraling out of control. There's never been quite a YA [young adult] drop-off like this. Wait. Yes, there has. Hunger Games suffered similar results from sequel to threequel, as the North American debut of Mockingjay - Part 1 was off nearly $35 million. That didn't hurt Lionsgate too much, however, as Hunger Games over-performed from the get-go - not the case for Divergent. Not only is story momentum being truncated, but this type of corporate greed has caused something even more dire than declining grosses - it's completely destroying the brand name. Ding dong, dystopia is dead. At least in the YA genre."
Warner Bros.' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows can be blamed for igniting the trend of splitting a movie's finale into two parts. The Hunger Games and Twilight both followed suit. And even The Hobbit went this route. While the earlier movies seemed to benefit from creating two movies from one book, it sounds like The Divergent Series: Ascendant may bring this trend to a close. The Divergent Series: Allegiant also had the distinction of not fairing well with critics. The movie only recieved a 10% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And it has a B CinemaScore, compared go the first two movies getting an A- and an A.
The Divergent Series: Ascendant will hit theaters June 9, 2017, and analysts don't suspect it will do as well as The Divergent Series: Ascendant, bringing the franchise even lower. It doesn't help that the final movie will be facing off against Paramount's World War Z 2 and the Untitled Mummy Reboot starring Tom Cruise, which kicks off Universal's shared Monsters universe. The movie may get a new release date, as analyst Jeff Bock doesn't think it can compete with 'the big boys of summer'.
Some directly blame Lionsgate for rushing the production on Divergent and its sequels. There has been a rapid turn around for each installment, and some believe this has not left enough time to make a quality product. About the way things were handled, an unnamed executive had this to say about the situation.
"To make their date, they were just racing forward. The whole company is much more interested in delivering product than maintaining quality control. That's why there are so many bad movies being made there - because, unlike anywhere else I've ever worked, the whole thing is just, 'Move it forward, move it forward, move it forward.'"
The aggressive production timetable, which would have seen The Divergent Series: Allegiant director Robert Schwentke beginning work on The Divergent Series: Ascendant before he even finalized his sequel, is said to be the reason he bailed on the climax of this series. Lee Toland Krieger has been hired to replace him. The franchise has reportedly been plagued with problems. Says the unnamed source.
"Between visual effects - which were on an impossible schedule - and music, he was working seven days a week, then had to start work on the next one. He put on weight. He was really wiped. It was just exhaustion. In his deal, there was a trigger time where he had to decide if he was going forward. He was very torn, because he loves his team. But it wasn't possible. [Shailene Woodley] was complaining about him, but she was equally complaining about the speed of the movies and not taking the time to get a script right. The different contestants were discussed with her, and we knew he was someone who was sensitive to actors."
Lionsgate has been plagued by underperforming movies recently. The Last Witch Hunter, starring Vin Diesel, opened last October, only pulling in $27 million domestic before going onto earn $140 million worldwide. Mortdecai, starring Johnny Depp, turned out to be one of 2015's biggest bombs, only earning $47 million worldwide. And Gods of Egypt, released earlier this year, turned out to be 2016's biggest money loser thus far. This has caused Lionsgate's stock to plummet rapidly, with the studio experiencing a 4-month slide of 45 percent. Because of The Divergent Series: Allegiant's box office falter, it is believed that some big changes are about to be made within the studio. At this time, Lionsgate refuses to comment.