Will The Hunger Games Disappoint Like John Carter?
The Hunger Games is the film that everyone is waiting for…or is it?
Hype for the hugely anticipated book-to-film adaptation has been enormous, and with thousands of midnight showings scheduled for this evening (a large number of which are already sold out), The Hunger Games is looking like a hit.
Analysts are predicting that the film will gross between $70 and $100 million during its opening weekend (March 23 through March 25). This is certainly feasible. And with so many Hunger Games fans in America, I personally think that the film could eclipse the $100 million mark by $10 or $20 million.
But if we look at this from a more realistic perspective, we begin to discover that while The Hunger Games is certainly capable of earning $100 million, it might have a harder time accomplishing this goal than people expect.
Reason #1: It's Smaller Than Twilight
If the trailers and TV spots are any indication, Hunger Games director Gary Ross has done a commendable job of bringing this beloved trilogy to the big screen. Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF) also deserves some credit for letting him get the job done. All too often movie studios interfere with an artist's vision, but aside from the casting (which was very Hollywood), Lionsgate seems to have taken a few steps back.
In marketing The Hunger Games, however, Lionsgate has happily jumped on the Twilight bandwagon. The company would love for The Hunger Games to become the next Twilight, a film franchise that is often viewed as a cash cow for female audiences. But anyone who has read The Hunger Games knows that this series is nothing like Twilight. It's not simply a love story. In fact, it's not much of a love story at all until the beginning of Catching Fire (the second book). Even then, there's a much bigger story at play. The first and third books are, in simple terms, about survival. And through this violent journey, we come to know a cast of characters that is truly likeable, none of which is more memorable than Katniss Everdeen, the trilogy's heroine.
Regardless, Lionsgate would love for The Hunger Games to be the next Twilight simply because Twilight films make a ton of money. But while The Hunger Games has done something Twilight could not (intrigue a few male readers), Twilight is still a much bigger franchise. And without any heartthrob stars, it's going to be much harder for The Hunger Games to persuade teen girls to buy movie tickets if they haven't already read the books.
Reason #2: The Trailers Were Made for the Fans
When fans saw The Hunger Games come to life in the film's first two-minute trailer, it was hard to ignore what the filmmakers had accomplished. Allow me to quote my own gut reaction on Twitter:
“Bravo on the Hunger Games trailer,” I wrote on November 14, 2011. “http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/lions_gate/thehungergames/ I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually got chills.”
I think a lot of Hunger Games fans felt the same way. Unfortunately, those who had not read the books got absolutely nothing out of the trailers. I've met a few people who haven't read them but say they'll see the movie anyway. However, most non-readers I've spoken to were not impressed.
From the moment the trailer debuted, I feared this would happen. In thinking about the images of the trailer – which mean so much to those of us who know what they mean – I quickly realized that if you were coming into The Hunger Games with no expectations, the trailer wouldn't make much sense. It would seem like another cheesy book-to-film “epic” that Hollywood is attempting to shove down our throats.
In fact, if I hadn't read the books first, I probably would have spent a great deal of time making fun of the trailer. “This is lame!” I can practically hear myself say. “Why would anyone see this?”
But I'm not saying that because I know. And with nearly 20 million copies of The Hunger Games in print, millions of others know as well. They get it. And starting tonight at midnight, many of those readers will head to their nearest theater. But their friends and family (who have not read the books) may not. And that could hurt The Hunger Games' box office potential.
Reason #3: Nobody Likes the Cast
For every Twilight fan who doesn't like Kristen Stewart, you can find 10 who think she's just “perfect.” But I've yet to meet anyone who is completely satisfied with the cast of The Hunger Games.
While you could argue that this is true for every book-to-film adaptation, The Hunger Games situation is somewhat unique. Let's use Harry Potter as an example – almost everyone agrees that Daniel Radcliffe was born to play that role. In comics, most agree that Hugh Jackman was born to play Wolverine. So while the other cast members of the Harry Potter and X-Men films may have disappointed viewers, the leading actors were very well received.
After seeing The Hunger Games, moviegoers might come around. They might discover that Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss. They might learn that Liam Hemsworth is an awesome Gale Hawthorne. They might also realize that Josh Hutcherson deserved to be cast as Peeta Mellark, even though no one who read the books thinks he looks anything like that actor.
But this is all speculation, wishful thinking, and other happy thoughts that may not come true. And even if they do, if moviegoers don't show up to see the film in the first place, what will it matter? While there are circumstances where DVD sales and rentals can make up for a box office disappointment (and ensure that the sequel is a smash hit in theaters, which was the case for Austin Powers), most films need to do well in theaters to ensure that a proper sequel is made.
Reason #4: Repetitive TV Spots
The Hunger Games is big enough that the TV advertisements – which show the same clips over and over again – should not have a negative impact on ticket sales. But while there are times when film studios produce repetitive ads to avoid spoiling the whole film, they usually do this for one of two reasons.
- They only want you to see the absolute best/most memorable parts of the film.
- The rest of the film sucks and they don't want you to know it.
If other moviegoers are annoyed by the repetitive clips, or suspect that the studio is hiding something, The Hunger Games could suffer.
Follow me @LouisBedigian
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