NEW YORK (AP) — To go with "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games," Lionsgate now has a trio of young-adult franchises with the box-office leading "Divergent."
The teen science-fiction thriller starring Shailene Woodley debuted with $56 million over the weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday. The opening, while less than some anticipated, launches Lionsgate's third franchise built on young-adult best-sellers.
With an audience 59 percent female and half under the age of 25, "Divergent" lured young moviegoers with dystopian drama and an upcoming star. "Divergent," though, fell well short of its forerunners: "Twilight" opened with $69.6 million in 2008, and "The Hunger Games" began with $152.5 million in 2012.
Richie Fay, president of domestic distribution for Lionsgate, called it "a great beginning for another franchise for the company." A sequel is already in the works.
"The key to the success of these franchises is finding the difference and marketing it," said Fay. "It's not easy. And I think we're doing it better than anyone else right now, frankly."
In the rush to adapt popular young-adult fiction, Lionsgate has succeeded where many others have floundered. "Divergent," made with a budget of $85 million from Veronica Roth's best-sellers, follows less stellar results from youth-focused films like "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones," ''Vampire Academy" and "Beautiful Creatures."
Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak, calls the "Divergent" debut a "three-peat" for Lionsgate in a challenging genre that defies "cookie-cutter, assembly line" development.
"They make it look easy," says Dergarabedian. "You're chasing probably the most fickle audience in the world. They can change their minds on what's cool in the blink of an eye."