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Movie version of sci-fi hit `Divergent' to film in Chicago

Nina Metz

Chicago Closeup

12:05 AM CST, January 14, 2013

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Just two weeks into the new year, Chicago has landed its first major movie project of 2013. Rumored for weeks, the Illinois Film Office has confirmed that “Divergent” will start shooting here in April.

Based on the first in a trilogy of young adult novels set in a dystopian Chicago by local writer Veronica Roth, the film is expected to generate $30 million in spending and -- unlike “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and “The Dark Knight” -- it will be shot entirely in Chicago, including soundstage work at Cinespace (which is also currently home to the NBC series “Chicago Fire”).

The announcement is big news for the local film industry. Lionsgate, the studio behind both “The Hunger Games” and the “Twilight” series, told investors in November that it is banking on Roth’s trilogy to become the next big franchise. Book sales so far back that up; as of last summer, “Divergent” (published in April 2011 and a New York Times best-seller) sold more than 1 million copies. According to The Wrap, that figure is ahead of where “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight” were “at a similar point in their life cycles.”

Roth’s follow-up, “Insurgent,” was released in 2012; the final book is expected later this year.

If “Divergent” does as well at the box office as Lionsgate hopes (it is set to open in March of 2014) that will likely mean Chicago has a lock on any sequels. Director Neil Burger (“Limitless” and “The Illusionist”) and star Shailene Woodley (“The Descendents”) will be in town shooting the first installment through June.

A Chicago native, Roth, 24, finished “Divergent” while an undergrad studying creative writing at Northwestern University. She currently lives in Chicago.