The pilot feature from the latest aspiring YA franchise conformed to industry predictions to open top and deliver a highly promising $56m debut.

Meanwhile comedy God’s Not Dead came from left-field to score a number five debut through Freestyle Releasing.

Shailene Woodley – who broke out as George Clooney’s on-screen daughter in The Descendants – stars on her first major lead role opposite Theo James, Miles Teller and Kate Winslet. Approximately $4.8m of the tally came from 348 Imax screens.

Producer Lucy Fisher of Red Wagon Entertainment told Screendaily prior to the release that the sequel Insurgent was due to commence shooting in Atlanta after Memorial Day on May 26.

Buena Vista’s Muppets Most Wanted arrived in second place on $16.5m, a disappointing result compared to the $29.2m opening weekend of its 2011 precursor, which rises to $30.5m when adjusted for inflation.

The current release stars the renowned puppets with help from Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey and Ty Burrell. The 2011 film starred Jason Segel and Amy Adams.

God’s Not Dead delivered one of the highlights of the weekend and averaged a fair $10,979 from 780 theatres. The film from Pure Flix Entertainment and Red Entertainment Group stars Shane Harper as a college student whose philosophy professor challenges his faith.

DreamWorks’ action film Need For Speed slipped three places to number six in the second weekend to reach a lacklustre $30.4m.

The Grand Budapest Hotel ranks seventh on $12.9m after three sessions through Fox Searchlight after expanding by 238 into 304 sites. The per-theatre average reached a mighty $22,204.

SPC debuted Jodorowsky’s Dune on $36,700 from three venues for a $12,233 average. Rob The Mob, which The Exchange sells internationally, opened on $11,600 from a single venue through Millennium Entertainment. Comedy thriller Cheap Thrills arrived through Drafthouse Films on $19,100 on two screens for a $9,500 average.

Overall box office for the top 12 climbed 30.1% against the previous session and 2.5% compared to the same weekend in 2013.

This week’s wide release is Darren Aronofsky’s Noah starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson and Ray Winstone through Paramount; Open Road Films’ thriller Sabotage from David Ayer with Arnold Schwarzenegger; and the true-life drama Cesar Chavez directed by Diego Luna and starring Michael Pena from Mexico’s Canana Films, released in the US through Lionsgate.

Estimated Top 10 North America Mar 21-23 2014
Film (Dist) / Est wkd gross / Est total to date

1 (-) Divergent (Summit-Lionsgate) Lionsgate International $56m –

2 (-) Muppets Most Wanted (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $16.5m –

3 (1) Mr. Peabody & Sherman (DreamWorks Animation-Fox) Fox International $11.7m $81m

4 (2) 300: Rise of An Empire (Warner Bros) WBPI $8.7m $93.8m

5 (-) God’s Not Dead (Freestyle Releasing) $8.6m

6 (3) Need For Speed (DreamWorks-Buena Vista) WDSMPI/Mister Smith $7.8m $30.4m

7 (8) The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight) Fox International $6.8m $12.9m

8 (4) Non-Stop (Universal) StudioCanal $6.3m $78.6m

9 (6) The Lego Movie (Warner Bros) WBPI $4.1m $243.4m

10 (5) Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club (Lionsgate) Lionsgate International $3.1m $12.9m