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Especially when compared to its fellow dystopian teen sci-fi drama, The Hunger Games, The Divergent Series doesn’t quite measure up. The first two movies were successful, but not that successful, and while the Jennifer Lawrence-fronted franchise generally received positive reviews, critics were not so kind to 2014’s Divergent and the follow-up, Insurgent. The third film, The Divergent Series: Allegiant, the first in a two-part finale, just opened last weekend to the lowest box office numbers and critical ratings in the franchise. In the wake of this, the fourth and final film, The Divergent Series: Ascendant, due in theaters next summer, just got some bad news: its budget has been reduced, though by how much remains a mystery.
According to The Hollywood Reporter's "well-placed" industry sources, the budget for The Divergent Series: Ascendant has been greatly reduced. There wasn’t an exact number to give, though it is expected to be at least several million dollars. Divergent was made for $85 million, while both Insurgent and Allegiant came with reported price tags of $110 million. Perhaps the final film will be closer in budget to the first.
As is so often the case when a studio is trying to keep a franchise going, the final book in Veronica Roth’s young adult trilogy was split into two films, a strategy used by the likes of Twilight, Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games. Some have claimed that this caused The Divergent Series: Allegiant to be stretched out too much. Even if that is the case, many fans of Roth’s novels admit that Allegiant is the weakest link in the saga, and perhaps the combination of that and the attempts to play it out over multiple movies was more than the material could bear.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant took in just north of $29 million over its opening weekend. That’s the lowest in the franchise by far, as Divergent earned $54 million during its debut, while Insurgent opened to $52 million. This marks a substantial decline.
Stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jeff Daniels, Miles Teller, and more will all be back for The Divergent Series: Ascendant, but after helming the last two movies, director Robert Schwentke will not. Instead that role will be filled by Age of Adaline helmer Lee Toland Krieger. The script is still being written, and will reportedly be adjusted to the new financial constraints Summit and Lionsgate have imposed.
In addition to having to follow the lowest opening of the saga, The Divergent Series: Ascendant will also face stiff competition at the box office. Thus far, all the films have dropped in March with relatively little opposition, though the concluding chapter is scheduled to open in the middle of the summer blockbuster season, on June 9, 2017. That’s same day the Tom Cruise-fronted The Mummy and World War Z 2 are also slated to open. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the date change at some point.