Lionsgate has pulled a pretty impressive move for their Divergent franchise by choosing to have it conclude as a TV movie that will potentially introduce new characters for a Television spin-off. Let’s see if it pays off for them shall we?
Honestly, I for one am not surprised, the first two films in the Divergent series were box office hits but, by comparison, Allegiant’s worldwide box office was, quite simply, a flub. Insurgent and Divergent both brought in almost 300 million dollars worldwide, however Allegiant only brought in less than 200 million. And that says nothing of their critical receptions which have steadily declined with each installment. RottenTomatoes has Divergent topping out at about 41%, Insurgent at 28% and Allegiant at a whopping 13%. This points to the fact that the studio really doesn’t know what to do with the franchise.
Each film appears to stray further and further from its source material, a book series by the same name written by Veronica Roth. By doing so they’re alienating their main fan base who would be going out to see the film. While the original film followed the books pretty closely, they chose to go with a more action-oriented style to appeal to a wider audience which only appeared to give a slight boost to sales, while Allegiant leaned more toward a science-fiction-style. This too did nothing to boost sales and even seemed to decrease it further. Still, Lionsgate was planning on starting production this summer until they the final box office numbers forced them to take more drastic measures. Lionsgate’s television group produce the final TV-movie that will wrap up the storyline of the current characters whilst also introducing the characters that will be in the television spin-off series. It is unclear at this time if Shailene Woodley and the other franchise stars will even return for the TV-Movie or even if they have any contractual obligation to do so in the first place.
For me, this points to a bigger issue of the YA-book-to-movie genre as a whole. Studios try to hedge their bets by buying the rights to franchises with name recognition, they want to find their next ‘Hunger Games’ cash cow. But with every studio trying to do that, we get mediocre franchises attempting to crop up like Mortal Instruments or The 5th Wave. Just because a book sells well, doesn’t mean it will translate into a money-maker for the silver-screen– not all books can transfer to that new medium very well. The odd part about this turn of events, however, is the fact that MOST studios don’t have these sort of issues in the back-end of the franchise. They will usually have issues with the first film and then scrap subsequent projects. You cut your losses early rather than later. Very few times have studios backed out by the final film– but maybe Lionsgate and other studios will be more careful with picking which book franchises to adapt or pay close attention to the source material as to not alienate the original fan base.