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'Zootopia' tramples 'Allegiant,' a 'Divergent' series low

Sony's "Miracles From Heaven," took third place this weekend with a $15 million opening, continuing the consistent success of faith-based films.

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    This image released by Disney shows Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, in a scene from the animated film, "Zootopia."
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"Zootopia" continues to run wild over its rivals in its third weekend in theaters, stomping all over the launch of "Allegiant," the third film in the "Divergent" series.

The animated Disney film featuring the voices of Jason Bateman and Ginnifer Goodwin earned $38 million this weekend to take first place once again, according to comScore estimates Sunday. It's now earned $201.8 million domestically.

It stole the thunder from "The Divergent Series: Allegiant," starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James, which opened in second place with an estimated $29.1 million from 3,740 locations.

It's a new low for the Young Adult series based on Veronica Roth's novels, which both opened north of $50 million, but not unexpected. Lionsgate broke up Roth's final book into two movies, the second of which, "Ascendant," launches next year. And, like "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games," it's not unusual for Part 1 of a 2-film finale to fall short of some of its predecessors.

"It's had mixed results in general, but it's also had great results so I can't really fault a studio for going with that strategy," said Paul Dergarabedian, comScore's senior media analyst. "It's like skipping ahead in a book. I think it's a strategy that may want to be reconsidered. But there are other factors — is the movie good? What are the conditions of the marketplace?"

Mr. Dergarabedian also noted that fickleness of the teen audience might be playing into the big drop from the previous films.

"They're chasing an audience that is very difficult to pin down," he said. "What might be cool to them one day isn't cool the next."

But while the future of drawn out YA franchises might be looking as bleak as the dystopias they portray, one genre that does seem to produce near-consistent hits is that of the faith-based film.

The latest entry, Sony's "Miracles From Heaven," took third place this weekend with an impressive $15 million. The film, starring Jennifer Garner and Queen Latifah, opened Wednesday. It's earned $18.6 million to date, and cost only $13 million to produce.

Audiences, who were 65 percent female and 75 percent over the age of 25, gave the film an A+ CinemaScore, which bodes well for its longevity going into the Easter holiday weekend.

It's no secret that there have been a slew of faith-based breakout hits, but not many of them have mainstream Hollywood stars on the level of Ms. Garner and Ms. Latifah.

"These films are a home run in terms of having modest budgets and an audience, but star power does make a difference," Dergarabedian said.

Rory Bruer, Sony's President of Worldwide Distribution, agreed.

"It has a faith-based core, but this movie is for everyone," Mr. Bruer said.

Rounding out the top five were holdovers "10 Cloverfield Lane" and "Deadpool" with $12.5 million and $8 million, respectively.

The weekend overall was about on par with last year, but the 2016 box office is thriving, up 10.5 percent from 2015 — a number that is likely to rise when "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" opens next weekend.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

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