Lionsgate's book-to-film adaptation grosses a staggering $155 million, shattering records and surpassing any "Twilight" pic; overseas, "Hunger Games" opens to $59.3 million for a worldwide total of $214.3 million. - The Hollywood ReporterAll right, if you're reading my blog, you probably expected that this movie would do well, that the fact that it stars a heroine and is based on an extremely successful series of books is no new news. Much hay seems to be being made about how The Hunger Games is an "original story" and "not a franchise." By that logic, neither was Twilight, the much touted "other successful girls franchise" that is aimed at this age group. For the sake of argument, let's say Bridesmaids is focused at the Over 25 Ladies, and that Twilight and The Hunger Games are aimed squarely at the Under 25 Ladies.
If you're a reader of the blog, you'll also know by now, that I have a particular affinity for The Hunger Games, I've written a number of articles, and will write a few more before the franchise finishes up I'm sure. What makes it easy to see why The Hunger Games is and will do better than Twilight is that while Twilight had limited story appeal outside it's core romance. The Hunger Games has aspirational meaning that appeals to a wide range of ages and both genders.
- The Hunger Games is at its core, and clearly marketed as, a story of survival against oppressive, overwhelming odds.
- The Hunger Games is about a person sacrificing herself for her sister.
- The Hunger Games pits a lone hero against a clearly drawn antagonistic evil. The sort that sends kids to their death for amusement.
- Pre-Existing Book Franchise: a bestselling book is, perhaps more than ever, the strongest marketing tool a studio can have.
- The Indie Talent: Just two years ago at Sundance, the two biggest breakouts were "Winter’s Bone" and "The Kids Are All Right." They starred -- and catapulted to success -- two total unknowns by the name of Jennifer Lawrence and Joshua Hutcherson.
- The Director makes Hits: Gary Ross hadn't directed a movie in nearly a decade. Yet with the teen action pic, he made a movie that not was only a mega-blockbuster but garnered solid reviews (71% positive, according to Movie Review Intelligence).
- Kids/Fans: Though "The Hunger Games" is about teenagers and is a property devoured by same, more than half the audience for the Lionsgate film this weekend was above the age of 25.
- A Story that doesn't need Bells or Whistles: For the last few years, the thinking has gone that the gloss of 3-D -- not to mention the higher ticket prices -- was the way to really profit from a movie. But "The Hunger Games" had the biggest-ever opening for a non-sequel by telling its story in good old-fashioned 2-D.
While the arguments in the LA Times are reasonable, I think that at their core, they source of all of those arguments come down to the story. It's the story of someone who genuinely doesn't want to hurt people, but who has to do what she must in order to survive and inspires others in her wake. She is no simpering Bella, she is an active, hearty, resourceful person who will adapt to her situation and thrive when she can and that is something that every person ultimately wants to emulate.
The story has a clear setting that resonates with the current political climate even though the books were written years before Occupy Wall Street... but are really about a single person's experience. Above all, the story and the media fuse together beautifully, Katniss's story is as much about the perception of the events that surround her, and learning how identity can be manipulated as it is about her individual survival (the two weave together in themes that are explored in more depth in Mockingjay and Catching Fire).
A story like this is universal, it appeals to men and women, old and young; that is the reason this franchise is beating the numbers of those that have come before it, and why it will continue to for years to come.