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Box Office Brasserie:
Movie News for Movie Lovers

YA adaptations have become as common as superhero flicks in movie theaters these days. The only thing is, comic book films—for the most part—save the day at multiplexes, producing sequels and fostering franchises, whereas young adult novels are often one-and-done.

Outside of Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games, studios have, for the most part, been befuddled at the box office when trying to capture the magic formula that transforms teen literature into cinematic success stories.

Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” arrives as the obligatory “next big thing” and despite what you may have heard from many critics—many who likely don’t remember ever being zit-popping teenagers and have probably seen one too many YA films recently—it delivers on almost every level.

While it may not be as entertaining as “The Hunger Games” it is the closest thing to a manufactured hit YA adaptations have seen recently. Yes, it’s a bit derivative of Katniss Everdeen’s adventures, but that said, it also stands on its own in an adjacent world, one that could easily co-exist with outside the realms of Panem.

Twihards may unfollow me on Twitter because of this, but the love story between Shailene Woodley and Theo James is much more realistic than Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, and isn’t the focal point of the movie either; its appropriately motivated and the collective of actors are more captivating than your average YA adaptation.

Plus, even at 2hrs and 20mins, the action is well paced and zips by. Lionsgate and Summit are certainly confident in the prospects of this series as they’ve been so bold to announce the sequel and threequel months in advance of the opening.

Marking its territory in 3,936 theaters, expect “Divergent” to easily hit #1 with around $60M, which is obviously no where near the $158M that “The Hunger Games” sported opening weekend, but that certainly puts it in the wheelhouse of “Twilight,” which debuted with $69M.

At a tidy cost of $80M, “Divergent” should also see solid grosses overseas, and will certainly have something to build on when “Insurgent” and “Allegiant” roll out next year and the following year.

Taking a back seat to teen mobs, “Muppets Most Wanted” will hope to target the bustling family market that has already turned “The Lego Movie” and “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” into hits this year.

Disney’s sequel arrives 2 ½ years after Jason Segel and Amy Adams successfully rebooted Jim Henson’s merry puppets earning $165M worldwide on a $45M budget.

This time Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey and Ty Burrell join in on the furry fun and will be looking to lock up the runner-up spot with a solid $25M in 3,194 venues. Now if only they would make a “Muppet Babies” movie. Cue theme song.

Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” expands into over 300 theaters in its third weekend and will likely earn between $5M-6M. In just 66 theaters last weekend it grossed an outstanding $3.6M–$55,122 per theater.

And for those who like to be watched while watching porn…er…sexual deviance, Lars Von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac Vol. 1” sneaks into 24 theaters from Magnolia Pictures, however it has been available on VOD for at least the last week.

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WEEKEND ESTIMATES

1. DIVERGENT- $58M
2. MUPPETS MOST WANTED – $25M
3. MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN – $13M
4. 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE – $9M
5. NEED FOR SPEED – $7M

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SPLICE OF LIFE: BLURBS, BLIPS, CUTS & CLIPS

FOX DATES & RE-DATES A BOATLOAD OF TITLES, INCLUDING MARVEL

DC may want to seriously think about subletting its superheroes to studios outside Warner Bros. as there are now over a dozen top notch Marvel properties already on the release calendar between Sony, Disney and Fox, while DC has only one confirmed comic book flick, “Batman Vs. Superman.”

Although Fox’s “Fantastic Four” reboot doesn’t drop until next summer that didn’t deter the studio from confirming “The Fantastic Four 2” for July 14, 2017. But they didn’t stop there. They also set “Untitled Wolverine”—yes another one—for March 3, 2107 and “Untitled Fox/Marvel” for July 13, 2018.

Fox’s 2018 release will probably turn out to be another “X-Men” film, as Fox has “X-Men: Days of Future Past” set for this summer, and “X-Men: Apocalypse” for 2016. In keeping with the Hollywood tradition of franchise films arriving every two years now, this would make the most sense.

On the Wolverine front, no word if Hugh Jackman will return for the umpteenth time, but he’s certainly been cautious lately about confirming he’d do another outside of this summer’s “X-Men.” A huge payday for Jackman may have him shredding his previous reservations though, as this would likely be a massive paycheck.

Another superhero, Liam Neeson, is taking on “Taken 3.” Yes, it’s officially a trilogy as the third installment will be unleashed January 9, 2015. I wonder who’s left to take? They better not swipe his pooch or there will be frickin’ hell to pay. Swiping someone’s kid and wife is one thing, but you just don’t f*ck with man’s best friend! That said, I could definitely see this going the “Air Bud” route pretty soon after this installment.

Let the rumor mill begin to churn. Fox’s “Untitled Ridley Scott Project” is dated March 4, 2016. Could this be “Prometheus 2?” It sure the hell better be! But if it is, then why not just say so? Guess it could be his “Blade Runner” reboot/sequel too. No matter, its just nice to see him on a tear, pumping out a new film every year well into his 70s.

Also, “Frankenstein,” starring Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy, has been pushed back ten months, from January 16, 2015 to October 2, 2015. And Matthew Vaughn’s “The Secret Service” enlists a few months earlier, jumping to October 24, 2014 from March 6, 2015.

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“STAR WARS: EPISODE VII” TO START SHOOTING THIS MAY

Great news for fans of the force, as J.J. Abrams’ edition has seemingly been in the news for a long, long time. What I love personally is that it was also announced as “news” that the latest saga will be set 30 years after “Return of the Jedi.”  Earth shattering!

Well, that would make sense, especially considering Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher will be returning and, oh yeah, it will be just over 30 years since “Jedi” graced screens when “Episode VII” finally arrives Dec. 18, 2015.

I mean, I realize that anything LucasFilm does with “Star Wars” makes people freak out, but when respected media outlets post this as a headline news story…I do wonder if the geeks have indeed inherited the earth. Where’s the Buzzfeed list on what Luke Skywalker has been doing for the last three decades? What are his favorite galaxies to visit? Favorite lightsaber colors?

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CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK – Fox’s “The Maze Runner” (Sept. 19, 2014)

By now, we know exactly what to expect out of YA film adaptations—dystopian society, teens in peril (and in love) set in a world where nothing is exactly as it seems. It’s become quite the cliché in Hollywood, but hasn’t stopped studios from snatching up every YA property that hits bookshelves. What’s a bookshelf, you ask? Let’s shelve that for another time, shall we? Oops. Or do we digitally file those things away now?

One of the better YA novels of late, James Dashner’s “The Maze Runner” is pretty dark and gritty and has a vernacular all its own. Hopefully Fox’s teen horror/thriller gets it right and proves September isn’t just a dumping ground for wayward Hollywood castoffs. So far, so good, shuck-faces.

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CHOICE CLIP OF THE WEEK – Fox’s “Untitled Peanuts Film” (Nov. 6, 2015)

“Good grief, Charlie Brown, did you get a spit-shine? Because your bowling ball head looks marvelous!” Blue Sky’s modernized Peanuts toon debuted a teaser trailer and I’m beyond happy to say that it not only retains the old school charm of the classic animated specials we all know and adore, but also sports a squeaky-clean makeover. So glad they got that right. Welcome to the 21st century, Chuck.

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CHOICE BLIP OF THE WEEK – Relativity’s “Earth to Echo” (July 2, 2014)

If J.J. Abrams’ “Super 8” were made for little kids, it might look something like “Earth to Echo.” Sure, this seems like an “E.T.” rip-off arriving 30 years later–or is it a “Chronicle” rip-off?–but first glance is actually promising and it also has a prime release date.

Hey, and at least it’s not titled something lame like, “The Last Mimzy.” Plus, you know it’s on the hip tip when one of the character utters: “Is it amazing? Cuz I think it’s scary as balls.” Accent on balls. Don’t get your balls in a bunch families, it’s already been rated PG.

And you thought we left found footage flicks in the recycle bin. Hardly. Now they’re for kids.  I’m game, as long as it turns out to be as cool as I remember those classic kid’s sci-fi flicks of the 80s: “The Explorers,” “Flight of the Navigator,” “*Batteries Not Included,” and “The Last Starfighter.”  To this day, I still dream about having that Last Starfighter video game in my arcade. Star League…my services are still at your disposal! Waiting…

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CLASSIC CUT OF THE WEEK – Universal’s “The Last Starfighter” (July 13, 1984)

C’mon…how could it not be? “I love you, Alex Rogan!”

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Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.

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“Divergent” Poster Courtesy of Summit Entertainment; Poster #10: impawards.com