This weekend The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
, the sequel to last year's hit The Hunger Games
, both produced by Lions Gate Entertainment
(NYSE:LGF), raked in $161.1 million in ticket sales, making it the fourth-largest weekend opening of all time. (It lands behind Marvel's the Avengers
, Iron Man 3,
and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
). Moreover, it bested the previous record for biggest November opening, which had belonged to Twilight: New Moon.
That film earned $155.9 million in November 2009.
Part of the reason the Hunger Games
sequel was so successful was because it had a much broader audience, particularly when it came to men. The first film had an opening audience of 71% women; this weekend's audience was 59% women.
With its relatively modest budget of $130 million (Avengers
cost $220 million, Iron Man 3
cost $200 million, and the last Harry Potter
film cost $250 million), the second film in the Hunger Game
series has already become profitable. It should be noted that Summit Entertainment's Twilight: New Moon
cost only $50 million to produce, making its ticket sales a testament less to big-budget effects and spectacle than to the wild popularity of the book series and the stars of the film. It should also be noted that Lions Gate acquired Summit in 2012 for $412.5 million.
The big box-office gross of Catching Fire
is the result, obviously, of more people seeing the sequel than its predecessor. People saw the first film and were hooked into the narrative of the series, or else have read the books in the time since the first film was released and now feel compelled to see the movie versions. Or maybe, they saw one of the many licensed advertisements from Subway, CoverGirl, or Net-a-Porter, that have taken advantage of the Hunger Games
aesthetic, and in some cases, controversially so.
The Hunger Games
books and films present a dystopian future in which the former United States is divided into the 12 Districts of Panem, all ruled by the technologically advanced and wealthy Capitol. The districts, in turn, are home to varying levels of poverty (1 is the most wealthy, 12 is the least). Because of an attempted coup (the 13th district was destroyed in that uprising), the Capitol holds the Hunger Games every year, bringing two young, individual "tributes" from each district together, to create a televised, 24-person death-match. The annual Hunger Games is an essential element to the fictional government's tactics for controlling the districts. The story is essentially about income inequality, political oppression, and a hope for change. Protagonist Katniss Everdeen, played by the one of the newest true A-list actors, Jennifer Lawrence, is the embodiment of that hope.
That's why advertising with Subway Footlongs and CoverGirl makeup may seem hypocritical.
You be the judge. Here's a look at the complete list of Hunger Games product tie-ins:
America's biggest fast-food restaurant chain recently introduced its line of Fiery Footlongs, headlined by its new Sriracha Chicken and Sriracha Steak melts. Moreover, the company introduced its "Win Your Own Victory" Sweepstakes, in anticipation of the film. The sweepstakes will dole out prizes like free sandwiches for a year, a pair of airline vouchers, and one grand prize of a “Victory Tour” to Oahu, Hawaii. In the Hunger Games world, the victor of the Hunger Games is required to take a Victory Tour through the 12 districts. Hawaii seems like much more fun, or at least, more relaxing.
Subway has even more involvement with the marketing of Catching Fire: During a November 4 episode of The Voice
, Subway premiered a 15-second Catching Fire
ad, just after Christina Aguilera performed on the show (Aguilera has a single on the movie’s soundtrack). Furthermore, Subway has a marketing deal with Wal-Mart
(NYSE:WMT) for an exclusive Catching Fire
collectible cup -- only available at Subway locations inside the retailer.
The makeup company CoverGirl, owned by Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) has introduced 12 distinct new lines for each of the 12 economically and politically oppressed districts of Panem. District 12, the poorest of them all, and home to Katniss, is a mining district, and so its CoverGirl style is called simply, “Mining.” (See all of the 12 looks, here
The nail-polish company China Glaze (TPE:1809) has introduced a new line called Capital Colours. Each color is inspired by a plot element or detail from the new film, and names include “Fast Track,” “Smoke and Ashes,” “Riveting,” and “Electrify.” Beauty products and fashion play a big part in the film; all "tributes" are forced by government officials to dress in high fashion while they stay in the Capitol, before the bloodshed begins. The winner of the games is made to wear even more fantastical clothes and makeup, therefore appearing exotic and glamorous, removed from the grim reality of ordinary life out in the far districts. Speaking of high fashion….
The online fashion retailer that calls itself the "World’s Premier Online Luxury Fashion Destination” has launched a 19-piece, ready-to-wear line called "Capitol Couture
," created by Catching Fire
costume designer Trish Summerville. Pieces are inspired by the leather jacket and pants that Lenny Kravtiz’s character wears, the dress Katniss wears in the pre-Games chariots parade scene, and even the streamlined jumpsuits the competitors wear during the actual Hunger Games.
Summerville worked on a similar movie tie-in for David Fincher’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (also based on a popular book series), for which she developed a special, limited-edition line of clothes sold at H&M.
Moving from fashion and onto once-popular Internet browsers, Internet Explorer has gotten into the Hunger Games fun as well, creating “The Hunger Games Explorer,” a special website for all things Hunger Games where fans can buy tickets, play games, see reviews, post to message boards, and much more (I’ve rarely seen websites so packed with information, check it out here
On Saturday night, Josh Hutcherson, who plays the lead character Peeta in the new film, hosted NBC’s Saturday Night Live. With direct references to the film in the opening monologue and throughout the show, Hutcherson’s hosting was a strategic move that probably helped boost ticket sales. (You can watch the episode
on Hulu, here
UN World Food Program and Feeding America
Fortunately, the Hunger Games marketing blitz isn’t all about fashion, cheap lunches, Internet browsers, and SNL. The UN’s World Food Program, Feeding America, and Lions Gates Film have teamed up to raise awareness and funds to combat hunger. On the project's official site, users can donate directly, take an online quiz (an anonymous donor will give an anonymous amount for every quiz taken), and watch a brief video of the Hunger Games stars asking for help. (You can visit the website, here
The Hunger Games inspired a new product line by Hasbro (NASDAQ:HAS): Nerf Rebelle bows. The line includes three Nerf weapons marketed to young girls: the Pink Crush Blaster, the Guardian Crossbow, and even the Heartbreaker Bow, inspired directly by Katniss’s remarkable skill with a bow and arrow.
Theme Park Attraction
Though no firm details have been announced, Jon Feltheimer, CEO of Lions Gate, told several analysts earlier this month that his company was in the midst of “pursuing” opportunities to open a Hunger Games
theme park. Gossip about a park based on Panem already has bloggers dreaming up grim and awesome rides
Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick
No positions in stocks mentioned.