Lionsgate was so excited about the prospect of their YA series, Divergent, that they went out and secured a few of the hottest upcoming actors in Hollywood — Miles Teller, Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Jai Courtney and Zoe Kravitz — and built an entire franchise around Shailene Woodley’s character. It was supposed to be the next Hunger Games, and Lionsgate was so sure of it that they planned to break the last of three books into two movies, just as Hunger Games had.
What Lionsgate didn’t bank on, however, was that the movies would suck. But they did. Nevertheless, after spending $85 million on the first movie and seeing disappointing box-office results, the studios increased the budget to $110 million on the second film and saw little additional return on investment. The third film, The Divergent Series: Allegiant was a straight-up stinker: Lionsgate spent $110 million again, and saw only $66 million return to them domestically.
They were stuck with an expensive franchise, in the red, and still needed to make one more movie to close out the series. What to do? What to do? There was a lot of talk, initially, of simply slashing the budget to align itself with the box-office they expected from a disappointing franchise that had jumped the rails, but that idea was eventually scrapped for an apparent TV show. What better way to deal with an expensive disappointment than to double down on it! They could literally water down the second half of the final book into 10 or 13 episodes! Or they might just do a stand-alone movie, spend $600 on it, and air it on Lifetime!
Only Shailene Woodley doesn’t want anything to do with a TV show, as Vanity Fair reports. “No,” she said when asked if she’d continue to be involved with the series. “I’m not going to be on the television show.” She told Screenrant something similar last year, saying: “I didn’t sign up to be in a television show. Out of respect to the studio and everyone in involved, they may have changed their mind and may be doing something different, but I’m not necessarily interested in doing a television show.”
In other words, the franchise that has already spent $300 million on production costs alone, plus another $100-$150 million on marketing, has fizzled into a TV movie or series that will eventually star a budget Shailene Woodley. The obvious choice, of course, would be Willow Shields, who played Primrose Everdeen in The Hunger Games. FULL CIRCLE.