A lot of fans of Suzanne Collins' bestselling book series The Hunger Games will be pleased to see the new photo of Jennifer Lawrence as the story's heroine, Katniss Everdeen. However, for those of you who have never read the book series and were underwhelmed by The Hunger Games teaser trailer, you are likely still wondering what all the hype is about, and if you should put down your money to see a film that ostensibly looks like a cross between Battle Royale and Twilight.
Well, if you're one of those people who is feeling a bit skeptical about this franchise, you're not alone: A recent business analysis report took a look at the sizable risk that indie studio Lionsgate is taking by making The Hunger Games.
Before we get into the business side of things, a quick synopsis about The Hunger Games:
The Hunger Games revolves around Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a sixteen-year-old girl forced to enter the titular competition – a futuristic televised event in which teenage individuals from different regions of Panem (the former United States) are forced to battle one another to the death in a deadly arena, as a means of illustrating the ruling government’s might.
The article in Bloomberg details Lionsgate's attempt to climb from a minor independent movie studio to a major blockbuster player - the type of success story that has been enjoyed by the studio's rival, Summit Entertainment. Summit has risen to new levels thanks to The Twilight Saga, another young-adult book series that was transformed into a tentpole movie franchise. Lionsgate heads Jon Feltheimer and Michael Burns have been hoping to come across the same sort of "game-changer" that Summit managed to snag, and are placing their hopes squarely on The Hunger Games series.
As Feltheimer told Bloomberg: “Hey, we’ve got something really special here...We would be disappointed if we didn’t make three or four movies.”
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Lionsgate's biggest success so far has been producing the critically-acclaimed TV series Mad Men for AMC. Beyond that, business has been hard; the studio has lost profits for about four years, and even had to endure a hostile takeover bid during the much-publicized MGM bankruptcy, in which Lionsgate pushed hard to win the crippled MGM's extensive library of film titles and rights (only to walk away with no prize).
The Hunger Games - which is being directed by acclaimed director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit) - has been budgeted at $80 million, making it Lionsgate's most expensive movie ever and a MAJOR gamble for the studio. Lionsgate has already seen some pretty colossal failures stain their track record, including the $90 million disaster that was this summer's Conan The Barbarian, and comic book guru Frank Miller's attempt to adapt Will Eisner's The Spirit, which is still largely considered to be one of the worst comic book movies ever made (in addition to being a box office flop).
According to Feltheimer, The Hunger Games will need to hit at least $100 million to justify a sequel being made (there are three books in Collins' series, which Lionsgate hopes to make four movies out of). Of course, early projections are that The Hunger Games could in fact earn anywhere from $200 - $700 million worldwide - if movie audiences come flocking. But at the moment, that's a big "IF."
As we've discussed on our own Screen Rant Underground Podcast: while Lionsgate has been playing a careful chess game with its marketing of The Hunger Games, it has yet to draw in the mass audience of movie goers who know nothing about these books. The teaser trailer was a bit too sparse, vague, and overall unimpressive to make a major impression on the minds of viewers, and despite extensive casting info, viral games and promo posters and images, there has been very little seen of the considerable effects work that is going to be needed in order to bring the futuristic world of the books to the screen.
From the dystopian landscapes of Panem, to the extravagant and flamboyant futuristic world of The Capitol (think The Fifth Element), to the arena of the Hunger Games (which boasts a mix of nature and technology), there is simply a lot of the "blockbuster" aspects of this film that we have to see. Until something eye-catching or jaw-dropping is unveiled to public Lionsgate is facing long odds on its bet.
Then again, as I always say: a movie's fortune can change in the space of a well-cut trailer (which should be coming very soon). As a fan of the books, I'm still hoping that the odds will ever be in The Hunger Games' favor - how about you?
The Hunger Games will be in theaters on March 23, 2012.