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'The Hunger Games' Propels Lionsgate

James Hirsen By Monday, 26 March 2012 09:35 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

In the entertainment world, Lionsgate generally has been known as the independent studio that has distributed Tyler Perry’s movies and produced the “Saw” franchise.

Up until now the company’s top-grossing film had been Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which took in $119.2 million.

Back in 2009 Lionsgate announced that it would acquire another independent film entity, Summit, which would make possible the conveyance of the valuable rights to the “Twilight” franchise. However, after only two days of negotiations regarding a merger, talks came to a halt due to concerns over possible content changes.

Then in January 2012 Lionsgate once again announced that it was acquiring Summit for the revealed amount of $412.5 million.

It turns out that the company will indeed have the money necessary for the Summit purchase, thanks in part to some recent box-office numbers.

‘The Hunger Games’ has propelled Lionsgate.
Opening Night of Lionsgate's 'The Hunger Games'
(Getty Images)
Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games” has shattered industry expectations for an opening weekend, with $155 million, according to studio estimates.

Additionally, it looks as though a new film franchise may have been launched, which has the potential to eclipse the “Twilight” series that the company is purchasing from Summit.

Optimists in Hollywood had expected that “The Hunger Games” would earn $125 million to $135 million. The movie opened in 4,137 theaters and started out with a strong $68 million on Friday, the fifth-best opening day ever.

Not only is the $155 million figure a record weekend number for Lionsgate, it is also the third-biggest opening weekend ever, finishing just behind “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2” ($169.2 million) and “The Dark Knight” ($158.4 million).

It is also the best first-weekend take for a non-sequel and top opening for any film outside the summer movie season. “The Hunger Games” debut box-office was greater than any of the four “Twilight” films.

Lionsgate placed a large bet on “The Hunger Games” project, with a reported $80 million spent to produce the movie and $45 million to market it.

The company used the marketing money in a clever manner by employing a variety of approaches including a collector’s edition of People magazine, an eight-city mall tour hosted by the film’s stars, and ticket giveaways on numerous websites.

Unlike current big-budget studio releases, the movie was not made available in 3-D and did not benefit from the $3 to $5 per ticket additional income that 3-D typically generates.

“The Hunger Games” already had a built-in awareness, which was generated by the more than 24 million copies of Suzanne Collins’ book trilogy that were sold, and the broad fan base that the books created.

The film takes place in the future, and the United States as we know it today is no more. A new nation called “Panem” has replaced it.

Panem’s despotic government has divided the country into 12 “districts” that take orders from an authoritarian “president” who rules from the “Capitol.” The newfound country conducts an annual “reaping” in which two young people, one male and one female, are selected via a lottery from each of the 12 districts. Those chosen are forced to engage in a fight to the death, which is broadcast to the public via a live telecast.

Star of the film Jennifer Lawrence is a perfect fit for the heroic action-romance lead role of Katniss Everdeen. The action aspect of the movie was emphasized in Lionsgate’s marketing in an apparent effort to attract males to the multiplex.

According to Lionsgate, the audience for “The Hunger Games” was 61 percent female as opposed to “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn,” which was 80 percent female.

Even before “The Hunger Games” release, Lionsgate was the most commercially successful independent film and television distribution company in Hollywood.

It now has the potential to develop into a bona fide major studio power, challenging the “Big Six” — Paramount, Warners, Fox, Universal, Sony, and Disney — and possibly even forcing the hand of the entertainment industry to accommodate a “Big Seven.”

James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax.TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.

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Monday, 26 March 2012 09:35 AM
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