As we discussed yesterday, the particular blockbuster strain of dystopian YA franchises seems to be circling the drain. While “The Hunger Games” kicked off with fantastic numbers, by time it got to its two-part finale, audiences began to drift away. “The Maze Runner” saw the same effect from its first movie to its second, but perhaps most notable of all has been “The Divergent Series,” which saw its third entry, “Allegiant,” 44% below the previous installment “Insurgent.” That’s a huge miss, and Lionsgate is already looking to do damage control as they move toward filming the series finale, “Ascendant.”
THR reports that the studio plans to roll back the budget on the final movie. It’s not yet determined how much it will cut, but Lionsgate certainly will not be spending the $110 million it did on “Allegiant.” Meanwhile, there is lots of blame going around about why the franchise has failed to work, from pointing to an aggressive production schedule that has put product over quality, to the decision to cut the final book the series is based on into two films. And while it’s probably a mix of many factors, I think the budget isn’t the only course correction Lionsgate will make.
As it stands, “Ascendant” is slated to open on June 9, 2017 against “The Mummy” reboot starring Tom Cruise and “World War Z 2” with Brad Pitt. You can probably bet it’s going to be moved away from that kind of stiff competition. And given that there isn’t even a finished script yet for “Ascendant,” perhaps pushing back the movie will allow the studio to get some strong material in place for the final chapter (Shailene Woodley has reportedly complained about the quality level of the screenplays, and didn’t gel with director Robert Schwentke, director of the last two franchises entries, who has since been replaced by Lee Toland Krieger).
Lionsgate finds itself in a position few studios do — figuring out how to proceed with a series that is on a significant decline. The next couple of months should be interesting as they work out how to wrap things up, while insulating themselves against any further significant damage. And you can be the rest of Hollywood is looking on at what is turning out be a cautionary tale of chasing a trend…