The Divergent Series: Ascendant, the last film in Lionsgate’s teenage dystopian thriller franchise, won’t be receiving a theatrical release, according to Variety. Instead, the movie will head straight to television with a spinoff series in the works from the studio.
The series, which stars Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort and Theo James, was supposed to have its finale released next year. But following the hardships its predecessor, The Divergent Series: Allegiant faced at the box office, however, Lionsgate decided to try an alternate route. Allegiant opened to a mere $29 million domestically and only managed to pull in $172 million internationally during its run.
Lionsgate is currently unsure whether the series’ main stars will return for the final film and is in negotiations with the actors’ teams to try and bring them together according to Variety. The cast won’t have anything to do with the spinoff series, though.
The decision to forgo a theatrical release and, in turn, spend far less on marketing and rental fees, may be a wise one for Lionsgate. It does, however, play into the narrative that premium networks like HBO, Starz, Showtime and Cinemax have been trying to get away from: that television is a dumping ground for Hollywood and is second-tier to feature films.
In recent years, television has become the go-to medium for some of the biggest directors in the industry — including Steven Spielberg, Steven Soderbergh, Neil Marshall and Baz Luhrmann — who have turned to networks like the aforementioned ones and streaming services like Netflix for more freedom in telling their stories. As Hollywood moved into producing more blockbusters, many of them based on iconic characters like superheroes or classic monsters, directors who didn’t want to take on those projects had to look elsewhere.
It’s what led to the "third golden age of television," as many writers have deemed the period between the debut of HBO’s The Sopranos and The Wire until now. While using a Lionsgate-owned network like Starz to premiere the film may make sense for the studio, it doesn’t do much to help Lionsgate’s case in getting people to see it.
Variety says the studio has yet to pitch the series to networks, but negotiations are ongoing.