Top 12 Film Industry Stories of 2012: #4

The Hunger Games Fills the Void

By David Mumpower

January 8, 2013

I know we're stuck in Nowhere, NC, but try to put on a smile, dear.

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Nature abhors a vacuum. These were the first words mentioned in the BOP listing for The Hunger Games, posted almost a year before the release of the movie. The argument made in our synopsis for the upcoming release was simple. With the Harry Potter franchise finished and Twilight soon to disappear as well, our staff believed that the stage was set for a new property to explode into the collective consciousness. In the Inglourious Basterds vernacular, that was a bingo.

Marketers are compelled to hype franchises because of the cottage industries they create. Board games, trading cards, toys, apparel and other merchandising opportunities are lucrative secondary markets. These exist in addition to the revenue attained via a movie’s release.

People have a tendency to vote with their wallets. We demonstrate devotion to beloved movies by buying the various products listed above and more. In this regard, a Tentpole title’s box office is only a first step in terms of revenue opportunities. This is the vacuum created when Harry Potter and Twilight retired from the list of active story projects.

Enter The Hunger Games.

In October of 2010, Mockingjay debuted as the number one selling book in America. 450,000 copies sold immediately with publisher Scholastic announcing an immediate printing of 400,000 more books. It eventually sold over 1.6 million copies in a calendar year and has become a mainstay on the Best Seller list.


Even before the trilogy was finished, a theatrical adaptation of the three movies had long been a foregone conclusion. Lionsgate cleverly acquired the rights for a comically low $200,000 in March of 2009. Despite the rising studio’s well documented financial woes, they spared no expense with regards to the production of The Hunger Games, the first movie in the franchise.

A budget of $88 million was announced for the project although Director Gary Ross and super-producer Nina Jacobson somehow made the movie for $10 million under budget, a virtual impossibility in the movie industry these days. Virtually everyone involved could sense that this dystopian film concept was powerful enough to become an overnight sensation. And they were right.

Perhaps the origin of this confidence was the casting. Jennifer Lawrence was the awards season darling of early 2011 thanks to her masterful portrayal of Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone. At the age of 20, Lawrence was nominated for Best Actress, thereby becoming the second youngest person ever lauded in the category.

With her indie film reputation secured, Lawrence naturally glided into mainstream cinema as Mystique in X-Men: First Class. That title grossed $350 million worldwide. In a span of only two movies, the young actress became a lavishly praised thespian with a legitimate blockbuster on her resume. Only two weeks after Lawrence enjoyed prime seating at the Oscars, she defeated several other well-known teenagers to become Katniss Everdeen, heroine of The Hunger Games.

With Lawrence in the fold, the production staff of The Hunger Games needed to decide quickly regarding two other roles. The Hunger Games trilogy is ostensibly a love triangle of sorts because that is what the Twilight crowd expects from teen literature. Katniss Everdeen is torn between her childhood friend, Gale, and her Hunger Games opponent, Peeta.

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