T H E  M E D I A  W E B S I T E   O F   B E N T O N   P A R K   S C H O O L
home MS4 Exam Questions MS3 Specifications media texts representations audience

The Hunger Games (2012)


Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss     Josh Hutcherson as Peeta     Liam Hemsworth as Gale     Elizabeth Banks as Effie     Woody Harrelson as Haymitch     Lenny Kravitz as Cinna     Wes Bentley as Seneca

Directed by

Gary Ross

Written by

Ross     Suzanne Collins     Billy Ray

Adventure, Family, Science Fiction, Thriller

Rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images — all involving teens

142 minutes

Roger Ebert March 20, 2012      

Like many science-fiction stories, “The Hunger Games” portrays a future that we're invited to read as a parable for the present. After the existing nations of North America are destroyed by catastrophe, a civilization named Panem rises from the ruins. It's ruled by a vast, wealthy Capitol inspired by the covers of countless sci-fi magazines and surrounded by 12 “districts” that are powerless satellites.

As the story opens, the annual ritual of the Hunger Games is beginning; each district must supply a “tribute” of a young woman and man, and these 24 finalists must fight to the death in a forested “arena” where hidden cameras capture every move.

This results in a television production that apparently holds the nation spellbound and keeps the citizens content. Mrs. Link, my high school Latin teacher, will be proud that I recall one of her daily phrases, “panem et circenses,” which summarized the Roman formula for creating a docile population: Give them bread and circuses. A vision of present-day America is summoned up, its citizenry glutted with fast food and distracted by reality TV. How is the population expected to accept the violent sacrifice of 24 young lives a year? How many have died in our recent wars?

The story centers on the two tributes from the dirt-poor District 12: Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). The 16-year-old girl hunts deer with bow and arrow to feed her family; he may be hunkier but seems no match in survival skills. They're both clean-cut, All-Panem types, and although one or both are eventually required to be dead, romance is a possibility.

In contrast with these healthy young people, the ruling class in the Capitol are effete decadents. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), bedecked in gaudy costumery and laden with garish cosmetics, emcees the annual drawing for tributes, and the nation gets to know the finalists on a talk show hosted by Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), who suggests what Donald Trump might do with his hair if he had enough of it.  

The executive in charge is the gamemaker, Seneca (Wes Bentley), who has a beard so bizarrely designed that Satan would be envious. At the top of the society is the president (Donald Sutherland), a sagacious graybeard who harbors deep thoughts. In interviews, Sutherland has equated the younger generation with leftists and Occupiers. The old folks in the Capitol are no doubt a right-wing oligarchy. My conservative friends, however, equate the young with the Tea Party and the old with decadent Elitists. “The Hunger Games,” like many parables, will show you exactly what you seek in it.

The scenes set in the Capitol and dealing with its peculiar characters have a completely different tone than the scenes of conflict in the Arena. The ruling class is painted in broad satire and bright colors. Katniss and the other tributes are seen in earth-toned realism; this character could be another manifestation, indeed, of Jennifer Lawrence's Oscar-nominated character Ree in “Winter's Bone.” The plot even explains why she's adept at bow and arrow.

One thing I missed, however, was more self-awareness on the part of the tributes. As their names are being drawn from a fish bowl (!) at the Reaping, the reactions of the chosen seem rather subdued, considering the odds are 23-to-1 that they'll end up dead. Katniss volunteers to take the place of her 12-year-old kid sister, Prim (Willow Shields), but no one explicitly discusses the fairness of deadly combat between girl children and 18-year-old men. Apparently the jaded TV audiences of Panem have developed an appetite for barbarity. Nor do Katniss and Peeta reveal much thoughtfulness about their own peculiar position.

“The Hunger Games” is an effective entertainment, and Jennifer Lawrence is strong and convincing in the central role. But the film leapfrogs obvious questions in its path, and avoids the opportunities sci-fi provides for social criticism; compare its world with the dystopias in “Gattaca” or “The Truman Show.”  Director Gary Ross and his writers (including the series' author, Suzanne Collins) obviously think their audience wants to see lots of hunting-and-survival scenes, and has no interest in people talking about how a cruel class system is using them. Well, maybe they're right. But I found the movie too long and deliberate as it negotiated the outskirts of its moral issues.

This from:http://www.rogerebert.com/revie ws/the-hunger-games-2012

Total Lifetime Grosses

Domestic:   $408,010,692     59.0%

+ Foreign:   $283,237,076     41.0%

= Worldwide:   $691,247,768   

Domestic Summary

Opening Weekend:  $152,535,747

(#1 rank, 4,137 theaters, $36,871 average)

% of Total Gross:  37.4%

> View All 24 Weekends

Widest Release:   4,137 theaters

Close Date:   September 6, 2012

In Release:   168 days / 24 weeks

Total Budget: $130,000,000

Development of The Hunger Games began in March 2009 when Lions Gate Entertainment entered into a co-production agreement with Color Force, which had acquired the rights a few weeks earlier. Collins collaborated with Ray and Ross to write the screenplay. The screenplay expanded the character of Seneca Crane to allow several developments to be shown directly to the audience and Ross added several scenes between Crane and Coriolanus Snow.

The main characters were cast between March and May 2011. Principal photography began in May 2011 and ended in September 2011, and filming took place in North Carolina. The Hunger Games was shot entirely on film as opposed to digital.

The film was released on March 21, 2012, in France and in the US on March 23, 2012, in both conventional theaters and digital IMAX theaters. Japan received it last, on September 28.

When the film released, it set records for opening day ($67.3 million) and opening weekend for a non-sequel.

At the time of its release, the film's opening weekend gross ($152.5 million) was the third-largest of any movie in North America. It is the first film since Avatar to remain in first place at the North American box office for four consecutive weekends.

The movie was a massive box-office success by grossing over $691 million worldwide against its budget of $78 million, making it the third-highest-grossing film in the United States and ninth-highest-grossing worldwide of 2012.

It was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on August 18, 2012. With 7,434,058 units sold, the DVD was the best-selling DVD of 2012


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hunger_Games_ %28film%29

Gender representations in "The Hunger Games (2012)

"This is a featured page A film based off the first book in a trilogy, The Hunger Games was one of the hit movies that screened here just recently. The story revolves around a 16 year old girl, Katniss Everdeen, whom by fate, and then subsequently choice, is thrown into the Hunger Games to fight to the death with 23 other competitors.

Why this film is relevant to this course is because it is a treasure trove of representations of both genders, and we will explore this in three main sections:

Gender and Class,

GenderHomogenization, and lastly

Gender Role Reversal.

Gender and Class

We have explored in lectures how the concept of gender, and what constitutes being male or female, differs from location to location, culture to culture. One idea that the film brings across is that gender can differ from social class to social class as well.  

We are introduced to Katniss at the start of the movie, where we see her living in some of the poorest conditions imaginable, having to hunt or food and take care of her younger sister and mother. We later come to realize that this is because their father died sometime back, leaving them to fend for themselves. Indeed, because of their social class and social status, the women in their community are "forced" to be independent, and survive.

There is no real distinction between males and females; everyone does everything they can to feed and clothe their family, and in the case of Katniss, she's as good as, if not better, than the men.

 Later on in the film, we get sneak glimpses of the "upper class" people: the rich, the wealthy, the comfortable. And in this area we see a flip of gender representations: rather than the females becoming more "manly", we see the men getting more feminine.

They are putting make up, dressing up, and generally having a good time with all their female counterparts. Again, we see that because of their social class, there is again no obvious distinction between the males and the females. This time however, rather than because of the need to survive, this resulted from the lack of such a need; they had practically everything they needed, thus there was no need for men to be stronger, the breadwinner etc. Where initially in the poorer districts, we see women becoming strong and independent in order to survive, we see here the inverse: men becoming less dependable and morestereotypical"female".

Indeed, we see that although in the past males were seen as "peripheral to family functioning" (Coltrane 1996), in modern times we see instead a blurring of the roles between men and women, reflected by such representations of gender in media. This brings us to our next section, that of the phenomenon of Gender Homogenization.

 Gender Homogenization.

We have seen that class can affect gender roles, and what we will explore now is how such roles, although differing between the classes, are in fact rather homogeneous within the classes themselves, as represented in the movie. Let us first begin with the "lower class", by taking a look at the contestants of the Hunger Games. To give a brief background, these contestants are taken from the 12 districts that exist, one male and one female from each district. They are, by comparison, considered the "lower class" relative to the "upper class" of the Capitol (The organizers of the Hunger Games, advertised as an event to remember the sacrifices of the rebellion, when in reality it is to serve more as a reminder of their power over the districts).

At only one point in time during the movie were the contestants set apart according to gender, and that was during the preparation process, where Katniss was made presentable and attractive to the audiences via all the stereotypical ideals of female beauty that exist today: smooth, hairless, shiny skin... make-up... silky hair etc.

Now where at first glance this might seem to perpetuate current inequalities when it comes to physical appearance: that women must go out of their way to please the men. However, we soon realize that the men too are subject to the same amount of "beautification" as the women. The Hunger Games Katniss and Peeta (her male counterpart from her district) both "beautified" for the parade.

 Indeed, all contestants of the Hunger games were treated equally, regardless of gender. And this is interesting because the Hunger Games was one of survival, physical toughness, and of brutality; after all, the aim of the whole game was to kill everyone else. Based on the belief that men are stronger, and seeing from current context were armies are majority male, one would think that in such a scenario where men are so obviously in the advantage, something would be given to help balance the scales in favour of the women. However, this is not the case in the film, again re-emphasizing its representation of the fusing of gender identities and roles. Not only are roles becoming homogenized, but we also see in the film a very prominent representation: that of the Heroine.

Gender Role Reversal

One thing we are all too familiar with is the idea of the damsel in distress: girl is in trouble, guy comes in guns a'blazing to save her and they ride off together into the sunset happily ever after. The Hunger Games actually does encompass this idea, but with one key difference: the damsel is not the one in distress.


 Katniss is not only the heroine in the film, but she also saves Peeta's life after he was badly injured. Now, in the book Peeta was actually the one who was looking out for and protecting Katniss throughout the Games, until an injury crippled him, which then led to Katniss being the one having to save his life. However, this is not what is represented in the film, as viewers are presented only one side of the story: that of Katniss saving Peeta. (This ties in nicely with one of our later points, about how the media shows us what we want to see)

When Peeta begins to recover from his injury, the pair has to find food. And this is where another point of interest emerges: Katniss does the hunting, and Peeta the foraging.

In his article, Pleck (1977) brought across a simple fundamental idea: that men and women both have their roles to play, and if the women go into what was initially the men's "sphere", the men will thus have to make a similar contribution into the women's area, to make up for what is lost when the women do what the men were initially doing.

This idea is also reflected in the movie, where since Katniss is doing the hunting, Peeta should do the foraging (since someone has to do it). However, this could be more of a result of the fact that Katniss was a far better hunter than Peeta, rather than because of a reversal of gender roles. However, this does not change the fact that this is the concept that was represented by the movie, and that hunting is in essence considered a "masculine" sport. Hence, it can be said that since Katniss was better at hunting, in this context Katniss was the "man" in the pair.

Yet despite all this, the base physical stereotypes that distinguish men and women in our today's society is also represented in the movie: men are physically stronger. In the movie, Peeta was shown to be the physically superior of the two, being able to lift and throw incredibly heavy objects incredibly long distances. However, even with this stereotype of physical superiority, Katniss was still the lead of the two, and was depicted as the "hero" throughout the movie.

Even with the stereotypes still present, a reversal of gender roles still occurred nonetheless.

Does this then suggest that the differences in physical strength, so often used to explain the difference in expectations of gender roles, in fact do not play as significant a part as we initially presumed?

Final Thoughts While some might say, "hey, it is just a movie after all", the fact remains that there are representations of gender throughout the film, and that is the point that we should be interested in.

It is ironic that in the movie, Katniss and Peeta are constantly reminded to "give the audience what they want to see" in order to garner support and favours from the nobles, because that is exactly what the producers and directors of the Hunger Games are doing to us.

Successful movies are successful, because people like what they want to see. Producers, naturally, want to get successful movies. Hence, producers will give the people what they want to see, so that they can get successful movies. After all, as much as mass media can influence the behaviours of society, society can just as well influence what mass media portrays (Wells, 1997).

Hence if the producers are giving us what we want to see, we can deduce that what we want to see, is the Girl saving the Guy, and essentially being the Heroine.

This, in contrast to the typical Guy saving Damsel in Distress formula that has worked for the better part of the last century.

Why then has this happened? Is it simply because it is a "fresh" idea? Or is it that maybe, society is beginning to realize that sometimes, it is the Man that needs to be saved.


***** References - Coltrane, Scott (1996) "Family Man: Fatherhood, Housework and Gender Equity" Oxford: Oxford University Press

- Pleck, J.H. (1977) The Work-Family Role System, Social Problems, Vol 24, Pp. 417-427 - Wells, Alan & Hakanen, Ernest A. (1997) "Mass Media & Society" United States: Ablex Publishing.

This from:

http://sc2220.wikifoundry.com/page/Gender+represen tations+in+%22The+Hunger+Games+%282012%29%22

Interesting takes on representations both in the book and in the film.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v= 3AilblBXlWU

The movie plays with stereotypes associated with gender in film, mixing ideals of masculinity and femininity in the character of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence).

She is the movie’s heroine and is no damsel in distress. When her bread-winning father passes away leaving her mother heartbroken and paralyzed, Katniss takes over her his role and hunts in order to support her starving family.

Moments before Katniss departs for the Capitol to participate in the games, about to face what she assumes to be her death, she assures her sister she will be alright and forces her mother not to cry. During the games, Katniss is not afraid to meet force with force; in the final scene, she unhesitatingly sends Cato falling to vicious beasts below despite his desperate pleas.

And while heroines of other films are stick-thin and coated in make-up apparently to enhance their sex appeal, Katniss has a sturdy figure and wears minimal make-up. The portrayal of mainstream masculinity in Katniss’ character is indisputable.

But filmmakers play with film feminine ideals as well. Katniss is caring; she volunteers as tribute for the Hunger Games to protect her younger sister Prim, whose name had been initially called. Despite seeming to shy away from groups, Katniss demonstrates the sociability typically associated with women; she takes great joy in her companionship with young girls, later seen when she allies with young tribute Rue. And although Katniss comes out of the games as victor, she avoids violence, having only killed two tributes.

These combined masculine and feminine film traits creates an interesting hero in Katniss – she is “the best of all worlds”.

It’s rare to find that in the movies: women characters who are both assertive and nurturing at the same time. This is something I hope will speak to young women: femininity shouldn’t be read as weakness and women need not be pressured to disavow “feminized traits” to compete, even in male-dominated workplaces.

The portrayal of men in The Hunger Games is also a place where stereotypes about gender are played with. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss’s fellow tribute for her district, is highly feminized in the film.

He does not allow his desire to survive in the games conflict with his strong ethics; he tends to follow the rules and as a result experiences greater risk of death. When injured by Cato, rather than fighting back, Peeta chooses to hide by camouflaging himself among the rocks, taking a less aggressive approach to ensure survival.

Although I couldn’t help but be drawn in by his sensitivity and devotion to Katniss, I was disturbed by the way Peeta is portrayed as helpless in the movie. Peeta is solely dependent on Katniss when injured and would have died if it were not for her nursing him back to health. The filmmakers try to emphasize Peeta’s inferiority to Katniss when she allocates him the duty of gathering berries while she hunts and when she yells at him, outraged that he could be so foolish as to gather Nightlock, lethal berries.

I left the theatre with the character of Peeta on my mind.

What was the purpose of “feminizing” Peeta to such an extreme? Was it to target audience members like myself who are drawn to “the sensitive male”, or could it be a simple foil to emphasize Katniss’ masculinized strength and aggressiveness?

Just as the portrayal of Katniss combines the type of male and female traits often shown in movies to create an idealized “cross-boundaries” hero, would it not have been possible to to do the same for Peeta’s character? Why should a “feminized male” be so unfavourably portrayed?

The “feminized male” phenomenon is certainly not unique to The Hunger Games. The trailer for soon-to-be-released film What to Expect When You’re Expecting features a group of husbands strolling in sync, pushing strollers, infants crawling on their arms, equipped with baby gear. Despite the message that movies like The Hunger Games and What to Expect When You’re Expecting seem to suggest, I do not believe that the ascent of a more sophisticated, gender-stereotype-busting idealized media image of women needs be built on the oversimplified portrayal of “feminized men”.

This from:

http://metrac.wordpress.com/2012/04 /24/gender-portrayal-in-the-hunger-games/

Gender representations in the hunger games Presentation.

Transcript of the above:

   1. Gender Representations in The Hunger Games

   2. The Hunger Games • A film based off the first book in a trilogy.

• The story revolves around a 16 year old girl, Katniss Everdeen, whom by fate, and then subsequently choice, is thrown into the Hunger Games to fight to the death with 23 other competitors.

• It is a treasure trove of representations of both genders

   3. The Hunger Games: Female Heroine

• Has a female protagonist AND challenges gender stereotypes. While Katniss is indeed a female, she is characterized by her masculine qualities throughout the entire novel/film.

• Katniss has more stereotypically “male” traits – she’s a hunter, she doesn’t like displaying emotions or being romantic, she kills more often and is more focussed on survival.

• Peeta, by contrast, is the gatherer, more emotionally open, more romantic, better with words.

   4. • These characteristics all paint the picture of Katniss as a female who is female only by sex; her personality traits, desires, and even physical appearance all identify closer with masculinity than femininity

   5. Subverting Gender roles? • • • • • • • • •

She’s the hunter She kills with a bow & arrow She is less openly emotional She is less romantic She is more likely to use things for her own personal benefit She’s the one more set on survival She comes up with the plans once her & Peeta are together She hunts, cooks, & cleans She is not as good with communication (words/language) compared to Peeta.


• He gathers while Katniss hunts His only kill in the 74th hunger games was an accident(unless you count the girl at the beginning, but we don’t know if he really killed her– it happens off-screen)..

• He is more openly emotional. He lets the world see him cry.

• He tells Katniss how he feels about her, even when he knows the entire country is watching.

• He is more romantic. Katniss is portrayed as having never given much thoughts to boys until the beginning of the book. Even in the book, she really only thinks about it because she has to play a role for the cameras.

• He’s physically strong, but in a different way than Gale, who might be considered the traditional male lead model. • He’s the more passive one in the relationship. Katniss takes charges. Partially because Peeta is injured, but also partially because that’s the way their personalities would play out in most circumstances.

• He’s better with words and language.

   7. Katniss and Peeta are both "beautified" for the parade

   8. • Gender, it seems, is not what one is, but what one does. Different characteristics we associate with masculinity and femininity are available to everyone, and when Peeta embodies some characteristics we usually see only in women's roles, Peeta becomes the ‘Movie Girlfriend’ despite being a boy.

   9. • There's more to the unusual gender dynamics in these stories, in other words — particularly, in the films — than the idea of a girl who fights. There's also a rather delightful mishing and mashing of the ideas of what's expected from young men in movies where everybody is running around shooting and bleeding.     

11. Questions?

• Does the film imply that in order to be successful in the Hunger Games as a female, Katniss has to take on anti-feminine qualities?

• Why isn’t it possible for Katniss to be portrayed as a feminine figure?

Why does she have to be cold, unemotional, unforgiving, and unsympathetic in order to win the Hunger Games?

Marketing The Hunger Games

Although the media would have you believe that the reason that entertainments like Bridesmaids, The Help and The Hunger Games did well is that Hollywood finally got around to making movies for women, that's not exactly the case. It's just occasionally making better films for women, making films outside the traditional rom-com box that women are so often placed into.

In fact, the overwhelming success of The Hunger Games really seems to come at the expense of those films, most especially Twilight.

Many of the reviews of The Hunger Games have highlighted how different its representation of women is from the Bella Swan character, and the women at Feminist Frequency will be happy to hear that the film passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. The film receives high marks not only because of its strong female lead, but also because of the number of women featured throughout the film, almost all of which have names and don't have the time to talk about men. They are too busy trying to stay alive.

Although the movie plays up the central love triangle far more than the book does, the audience reactions to the film show that its success is not about teen romance and sparkly kisses. I

n fact, the theatre I saw the movie with booed and guffawed at the trailer for the new Twilight film that screened before The Hunger Games. When Edward tells the newly vampiric Bella, "We're the same temperature now," I thought our theatre might never stop laughing. That shot of a red-eyed Bella preying on a deer really didn't help matters much.

As someone who joined in razzing Twilight, I'm thrilled to see The Hunger Games do well for similar reasons. Katniss is a great role model for young women in a way that Bella is not, a strong woman driven not only by her will to survive but her altruistic desire to provide for her sister and mother.

Jennifer Lawrence's performance as Katniss is close to flawless, replicating the no-nonsense gravity she brought to the 2010 Best Picture-nominated Winter's Bone, and will be the start of even more great things for her.

For an industry that usually doesn't prioritize female stories, perspectives or thespians, it's incredible to see a woman at the forefront of what very well may be the most successful movie of the year.

Although Ross' impeccable work with Lawrence and his cast partially justifies his presence behind the camera, I wonder why they did not find a more capable female director to helm it, especially when Kathryn Bigelow and Debra Granik around. In the 2009 Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker, Bigelow showed herself to be choreographing and filming action better than any male director working today. Granik previously worked with Lawrence on the aforementioned Winter's Bone, and she would have especially been perfect for this film because of how much District 12 seems to resemble the world Granik so perfectly rendered in that film.

Rather than being satisfied with one movie, we need to give young women a diversity of characters to actually look up and emulate, but the white male-dominated system makes it difficult to do that. The decisions of Hollywood will always reflect their biases and a bottom-line increasingly dictated by worldwide grosses, and recent data on Oscar voters (which showed that a vast majority are old, white men) and on women behind the scenes shows just how much Hollywood caters to that demographic. Of 2011's top grossing films, women accounted for just 25 percent of the producers on these films, 20 percent of the editors, 18 percent of the executive producers, 14 percent of the screenwriters, 5 percent of the directors and just 4 percent of the editors, and this doesn't even take into consideration ethnicity and race.

(For further proof of this phenomenon, none of the 2011 films I mentioned in the third paragraph were directed by women, and the highest grossing female-helmed film last year was the animated film Kung Fu Panda 2.)

If we want to see more films for a female audience, viewers cannot be the only ones that demand better representation for women. Women and people who care about women's representation in film can champion movies like The Hunger Games and encourage others to see it, but women have been going to the movies since the invention of the camera, and we still see the inequalities we do. We tend to punish female audiences for "not going to see women's films" and for men not attending films with a female lead, but the success of The Hunger Games has shown that neither of those things is necessarily true.

As with the Twilight films, women turned out in droves to see it, but this time, they brought men with them:

39 percent of The Hunger Games' audience was men, compared to just 20 percent of the audience for Twilight: Breaking Dawn - Part 1.

The overall CinemaScore for the film was an A, so those men clearly liked what they saw.

With The Hunger Games, both women and men have indicated that they are ready for something different. However, if we want to see real change, to see an industry that truly privileges films geared toward a female audience and a culture that recognizes women's narratives, Hollywood must stop being surprised every time a film about women does well. The industry needs to wake up and realize that women are a part of cinema, too; the system must be ready to change. The world is watching. Is Hollywood paying attention?

This from:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nico-lang/hunger-games-movie_b_1383644.html

 Selling a movie used to be a snap. You printed a poster, ran trailers in theaters and carpet-bombed NBC’s Thursday night lineup with ads.

Today, that kind of campaign would get a movie marketer fired. The dark art of movie promotion increasingly lives on the Web, where studios are playing a wilier game, using social media and a blizzard of other inexpensive yet effective online techniques to pull off what may be the marketer’s ultimate trick: persuading fans to persuade each other.

The art lies in allowing fans to feel as if they are discovering a film, but in truth Hollywood’s new promotional paradigm involves a digital hard sell in which little is left to chance — as becomes apparent in a rare step-by-step tour through the timetable and techniques used by Lionsgate to assure that “The Hunger Games” becomes a box office phenomenon when it opens on Friday.

While some studios have halted once-standard marketing steps like newspaper ads, Lionsgate used all the usual old-media tricks — giving away 80,000 posters, securing almost 50 magazine cover stories, advertising on 3,000 billboards and bus shelters.

But the campaign’s centerpiece has been a phased, yearlong digital effort built around the content platforms cherished by young audiences: near-constant use of Facebook and Twitter, a YouTube channel, a Tumblr blog, iPhone games and live Yahoo streaming from the premiere

By carefully lighting online kindling (releasing a fiery logo to movie blogs) and controlling the Internet burn over the course of months (a Facebook contest here, a Twitter scavenger hunt there), Lionsgate’s chief marketing officer, Tim Palen, appears to have created a box office inferno.

Analysts project that the “The Hunger Games,” which cost about $80 million to make and is planned as a four-movie franchise, could have opening-weekend sales of about $90 million — far more than the first “Twilight” and on par with “Iron Man,” which went on to take in over $585 million worldwide in 2008.

Along the way the studio had to navigate some unusually large pitfalls, chief among them the film’s tricky subject matter of children killing children for a futuristic society’s televised amusement. The trilogy of novels, written by Suzanne Collins, is critical of violence as entertainment, not an easy line for a movie marketer to walk, even though the movie itself is quite tame in its depiction of killing.

“The beam for this movie is really narrow, and it’s a sheer drop to your death on either side,” said Mr. Palen, during an unusually candid two-hour presentation of his “Hunger Games” strategy at the studio’s offices here last month.

 A built-in fan base for “The Hunger Games” certainly helps its prospects. More than 24 million copies of “The Hunger Games” trilogy are in print in the United States alone. About 9.6 million copies were in circulation domestically when the movie’s marketing campaign intensified last summer, so Lionsgate’s efforts appear to have sold the book as well as the movie.

Lionsgate has generated this high level of interest with a marketing staff of 21 people working with a relatively tiny budget of about $45 million. Bigger studios routinely spend $100 million marketing major releases, and have worldwide marketing and publicity staffs of over 100 people. The studio has been able to spend so little largely because Mr. Palen has relied on inexpensive digital initiatives to whip up excitement.

They assigned one team member to cultivate “Hunger Games” fan blogs. Danielle DePalma, senior vice president for digital marketing, drafted a chronology for the entire online effort, using spreadsheets (coded in 12 colors) that detailed what would be introduced on a day-by-day, and even minute-by-minute, basis over months. (“Nov. 17: Facebook posts — photos, Yahoo brand page goes live.”)

One important online component involved a sweepstakes to bring five fans to the movie’s North Carolina set. Notably, Lionsgate invited no reporters: The studio did not want consumers thinking this was another instance of Hollywood trying to force-feed them a movie through professional filters. “People used to be O.K. with studios telling them what to like,” Ms. DePalma said. “Not anymore. Now it’s, ‘You don’t tell us, we tell you.’ ”

Last summer, the Lionsgate team, including Nina Jacobson, a producer, and Joe Drake, then the studio’s top movie executive, started debating how to handle the movie’s subject. The usual move would have been to exploit imagery from the games in TV commercials. How else would men in particular get excited about the movie? But Mr. Palen was worried.

“This book is on junior high reading lists, but kids killing kids, even though it’s handled delicately in the film, is a potential perception problem in marketing,” he said.

One morning, he floated a radical idea: what about never showing the games at all in the campaign? Some team members were incredulous; after all, combat scenes make up more than half the movie. “There was a lot of, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. I don’t see how we can manage that,’ ” Mr. Palen recalled.

 Eventually, he prevailed. “Everyone liked the implication that if you want to see the games you have to buy a ticket,” he said. Boundaries were also established involving how to position plot developments; in the movie, 24 children fight to the death until one wins, but “we made a rule that we would never say ‘23 kids get killed,’ ” Mr. Palen said. “We say ‘only one wins.’ ” The team also barred the phrase “Let the games begin.”

“This is not about glorifying competition; these kids are victims,” Mr. Palen said. A few months later, when a major entertainment magazine planned to use “Let the Games Begin” as the headline on a “Hunger Games” cover, Ms. Fontaine, traveling in London, frantically worked her cellphone until editors agreed to change it.

In August came a one-minute sneak peek, introduced online at MTV.com. People liked it but complained — loudly — that it wasn’t enough. “We weren’t prepared for that level of we-demand-more pushback,” Mr. Palen said.

The footage did include a Twitter prompt through which fans could discover a Web site for the movie, TheCapitol.pn. (The Capitol is where the Hunger Games take place.) The site allowed visitors to make digital ID cards as if they lived in Panem, the movie’s futuristic society; more than 800,000 people have created them.

October included another Twitter stunt, this time meant to allow those ID makers to campaign online to be elected mayor of various districts of Panem. November marked the iTunes release of the main trailer, which received eight million views in its first 24 hours.

On Dec. 15, 100 days before the movie’s release, the studio created a new poster and cut it into 100 puzzle pieces. It then gave digital versions of those pieces to 100 Web sites and asked them to post their puzzle piece on Twitter in lockstep.

Fans had to search Twitter to put together the poster, either by printing out the pieces and cutting them out or using a program like Photoshop. “The Hunger Games” trended worldwide on Twitter within minutes.

“It was a silly little stunt, but it worked — bam,” Mr. Palen said.

 More movie hubs went live on sites like PopSugar, Moviefone and The Huffington Post in January, which also was the start of a lavish Tumblr blog called Capitol Couture dedicated to the movie’s unique fashions. Fifty more Web sites coordinated a ticket giveaway. Capitol TV — movie footage, user-generated “Hunger Games” videos — arrived on YouTube in February and has since generated almost 17.7 million video views.

This week, remembering it is operating in the attention deficit era, Lionsgate will introduce a new Facebook game and, separately, a virtual tour of the Capitol in a Web partnership with Microsoft.

“You’ve got to constantly give people something new to get excited about, but we also had another goal in mind,” Ms. DePalma said. “How do we best sustain online interest until the DVD comes out?

This from:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19 /business/media/how-hunger-games-built-up-must-see-fever.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0