At the start of the year, when the exhibitors looked at the 2014 release calendar, they will have noticed that the late spring and early summer offered two films based on young adult novels, both starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. One of them, Divergent, with its action storyline unfolding in a Hunger Games-like future dystopia, looked a sure bet. The other, based on John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, was a love story about two teenagers who meet at cancer support group. The budgets for the films – $85m (£50m) and $12m (£7m) – reflected production logistics, but also the respective studios’ thoughts on likely risks and rewards.
Positioned as counter-programming against World Cup football, The Fault in Our Stars has achieved a sensational UK opening of £3.43m including previews of £993,000. That compares with a debut of £1.77m for Divergent back in April. An even more apt comparison is Now Is Good, which was likewise based on a young adult novel (Jenny Downham’s Before I Die), and featured Dakota Fanning as a teen leukaemia sufferer romanced by boy next door Jeremy Irvine. The film opened in September 2012 with £317,000 from 305 cinemas, including £80,000 in previews. The Fault in Our Stars has done more than 10 times better than that, albeit from a wider release (511 venues).
Despite the UK success of The Fault in Our Stars, the result is nevertheless behind the pace of the US, where even greater awareness of the source material translated a couple of weeks ago into a $48m opening. The equivalent UK result would be £4.8m, by industry rule of thumb. Fault is currently at $98.7m in the US and $163m worldwide, and is set to be a huge cash earner for backers Fox 2000, bouncing back from the disappointing The Monuments Men.