A new report is shedding light on the increasingly troublesome Divergent situation at Lionsgate/Summit, and the mistakes that led the studio down this road.
This past weekend the third movie in the Divergent series, Allegiant, opened in theaters but underperformed. Its opening weekend box office was 44% lower than the box office performance of last year’s Insurgent, marking a surprisingly sharp downturn for the Divergent franchise.
On Monday morning I offered a few guesses why this drop happened. The contributing factors in a nutshell: Divergent fatigue (not to mention splitting the final book into two parts), YA dystopian fatigue, the studio’s decision to divert from the source material, and the really bad reviews from critics.
Now comes an interesting new story from The Hollywood Reporter. A source they spoke to alleges the studio has been rushing the Divergent movies through production, leading the films to ultimately suffer in quality. This fast pace has also caused Insurgent and Allegiant director Robert Schwentke to suffer, and Tris actress Shailene Woodley to grow upset:
[…] one high-level insider blames the rapid turnaround imposed by Lionsgate, arguing that its executives were under so much pressure to raise their company’s stock price with a hit in each calendar year that they did not leave enough time for quality.
“To make their date, they were just racing forward,” this executive says. “The whole company is much more interested in delivering product than maintaining quality control. That’s why there are so many bad movies being made there — because, unlike anywhere else I’ve ever worked, the whole thing is just, ‘Move it forward, move it forward, move it forward.’”
The aggressive timetable, which would have required Allegiant director Robert Schwentke to begin work on Ascendant before finalizing Allegiant, is said to have hastened his exit from the final movie. Lee Toland Krieger (The Age of Adaline) was hired instead.
As for the feelings of Robert Schwentke and Shailene Woodley:
The Divergent series has been dogged by problems, not least the exit of director Schwentke and what sources say was discord during production on Allegiant. “Between visual effects — which were on an impossible schedule — and music, he was working seven days a week — then had to start work on the next one,” says the production source. “He put on weight. He was really wiped. It was just exhaustion. In his deal, there was a trigger time where he had to decide if he was going forward. He was very torn, because he loves his team. But it wasn’t possible.”
A rep for Lionsgate denies rumblings that Woodley was dissatisfied with Schwentke. But the production source sticks to his position. “She was complaining about him, but she was equally complaining about the speed of the movies and not taking the time to get a script right,” he maintains. Krieger was signed only after Woodley gave her approval. “The different contestants were discussed with her,” the source says, “and we knew he was someone who was sensitive to actors.”
All of these problems contributed to Allegiant’s poor box office, it seems, and the fourth (and final) movie Ascendant will be paying the price. According to THR and their source, the budget will be reduced by “several millions of dollars” at “the very least.”
Budget cuts could mean there’ll be less money spent on special effects, or the film’s shooting schedule/running time could be shortened. The latter may not be a bad thing.