Lionsgate has not had the success that they had hoped for with their adaptation of the Divergent Young Adult dystopian future novel series. The Shailene Woodley-starring series has seen decreasing box office returns since it debuted in 2014 and it appears as if the studio is thinking of a cost-saving measure to wrap up the main franchise while setting up a spinoff as well.
According to reports that have been surfacing in the past few hours, Lionsgate may demote the final installment of the series, The Divergent Series: Ascendant, from a theatrical feature to a TV movie which could also serve as the launching point for a television series spinoff. The telemovie could air on the cable outlet Starz, which Lionsgate just acquired last month for $4.4 billion last month. Another option could be Lionsgate Premiere, the speciality division of the studio that releases films via streaming and video on demand outlets.
Predictably, Lionsgate has not commented on these rumors, and Ascendant still holds it 2017 release date on the studio’s calendar for now.
The Hollywood Reporter is stating that it is unclear if Woodley and co-stars Miles Teller and Ansel Elgort will participate in a TV version of the franchise’s final chapter. The Reporter’s sources state that while Woodley’s representatives have been approached, other cast members have not.
“They haven’t come to us to discuss deals, but if they think they can skimp on actors’ options, they can think again,” said the rep of one of the co-stars.
Agents say they expect very serious negotiations for their clients. But some feel it would set a dangerous precedent if actors simply go along with a move from film to TV. Sources say Lionsgate had an option for all of the main talent for the fourth and final film, but it had a theatrical requirement. This new arrangement would involve complete renegotiations of their contracts.
Lionsgate has been struggling to find a new tentpole franchise now that The Hunger Games series has wound up. As of now, the studio has its eyes on their Power Rangers reboot scheduled for next March to pick up the franchise baton for them. Currently the studio has 12 movies set for release this year, with a majority of them budgeted lower than what Lionsgate has been willing to spend in the past.
The first film in the franchise premiered in 2014 and grossed $151 million domestically with another $288.9 million globally. The series’ fortunes began to slide with the second installment, Insurgent, the following year, which grossed $130.1 million domestically and $273.2 million worldwide. This past March, the third installment, Allegiant, grossed an underwhelming $66.2 million at the US box office and just $179.2 million internationally.
I have to say that I am a bit surprised by this news, in that when a franchise starts to putter out, a studio is pretty quick to cut its losses and run. A number of franchises that started out with the intention of bringing a book series to the big screen have failed financially, leaving audiences who preferred to get the story cinematically without an ending. So I have to give Lionsgates some credit for not leaving fans in the lurch.