The numbers are staggering. $20m from midnight shows alone. $155m in three days in the US. $214m worldwide. Fifth biggest opening ever. Highest-grossing non-sequel opening in history. After just one weekend, the highest-grossing movie ever for film company Lionsgate. In the world's biggest understatement The Hunger Games has been a bit of a success, allowing film writers the chance to use every synonym for 'devoured' and 'slain' they can find.
But with a modest production budget of just under $80m, three relatively unknown leads and a plot that involves child-killing and suicide pacts, the one question every head in Hollywood is asking is, “How the holy shitballs did this happen?”
Here's five reasons why The Hunger Games is, yes slaying box office records worldwide.
Once the pre-sales were announced the probability of The Hunger Games flopping was somewhere between nil and nada. The level of its success, outstripping both Potter and Twilight, is something even the most optimistic film exec wouldn't dare to dream of. The boy wizard and the sparkly vamps began well and grew to become behemoths over time. The Hunger Games, however, has flown out of the blocks on day one, film one and kept fluttering. Looking at the marginal decline from Friday to Sunday - this is far from a fans only event.
Lesson Learned? Adapt a story that requires no prior homework.
A slightly unfavourable meme describing The Hunger Games as “Battle Royale with cheese” may be painfully apt but any comparisons to the Twilight saga with regards content are miles off base. “But it's based on a book that girls like!” seems to be the only real justification for the slight (and a promo shot of Lawrence and Hemsworth sitting in tall grass). Once the story was presented as something other than “girl stares at boy and bites her lip for two hours” audiences had the faith to check it out for themselves.
Lesson Learned? Make fewer films where bugger all happens.
Think it's just for the fairer sex? The statistics beg to differ. An estimated 60% of The Hunger Games' audience carried boobs along to the cinema compared to the not-at-all-astonishing 80% female crowd that frequented the last Twilight film. The inclusion of the rather lovely Jennifer Lawrence in the lead might have had something to do with the boys' attendance. Chucking in a surplus amount of violence doesn't hinder matters either. [Sidenote: One in five members of the Breaking Dawn audience had members?! We'll have to assume they were thinking with them when they agreed to purchase tickets.]
Lesson learned? Make films accessible to all types of genitals and you'll reap the box office bounty.
Buses, newspapers, TV ads and apps. Mockingjay pins, T-shirts, bobble heads and Woody Harrelson replica wigs. It's tricky to swing a Katniss without hitting a Hunger Games promo or tie-in Effie necktie. Sadly where over-saturation leads, apathy follows. While no studio head is losing sleep where the numbers are concerned, its place in cinema history may yet take a back-seat if the hype machine chunders on.
Lesson Learned? Beating audiences into submission can work wonders in terms of dollars - up to a point.
From the first review in which The Hunger Games was cited as “the best American science-fiction film since The Matrix” (it's not, but fair play to the critic for the hyperbole) director Gary Ross and company could inhale an oxygen-enriched sigh of relief that, away from the fan dollar, respect might also be acquired. For any right thinking cineaste to label a film featuring Lenny Kravitz, with a soundtrack by Maroon 5 and Taylor Swift, as an all time favourite might be a decree too far. But even the most reluctant haters will find it a challenge to argue that for a big budget and occasionally silly blockbuster movie, it ticks all the necessary boxes for an entertaining night at the multiplex.
Lesson Learned? Make films that respect audiences intelligence. And cast Jennifer Lawrence in more things.
As for the sequels, if Lionsgate are looking for an investment, we'll chip in a quid or two.
The Hunger Games - The NME Review