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The Hunger Games Case Study Industry and Audience

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Production, Distibrution and Exhibition, Industry and Audience MS4, WJEC, Media studies, A2, The Hunger Games, Case Study

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The Hunger Games Case Study Industry and Audience

  1. 1. Production Details • Directed by Gary Ross • A co-production from Nina Jacobson’s Color Force and Lionsgate • Color Force: acquired the worldwide rights to the novel for a reported $200,000 • Based on The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins • Distributed by Lionsgate
  2. 2. A Ready Made Fan Base! • 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.
  3. 3. Controversy • 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.
  4. 4. To avoid criticism of a film featuring kids killing kids, the trailer didn't show the games at all and focussed on the build up to them. This created an enigma code (what would the games actually be like?) which encouraged audiences to see the film out of curiosity
  5. 5. Controversy • 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.
  6. 6. Controversy • 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.
  7. 7. Box Office Success • When the film released, it set records for the opening day and opening weekend for a non-sequel • Opening day - $67.3 million • Opening weekend $152.5 • It is the first film since Avatar to remain in first place at the American box office for four consecutive weekends. • The movie was a massive box-office success by grossing approx $677 million worldwide against its budget of $80 million, making it the third highest grossing film in the United States in 2012.
  8. 8. Advanced Success • The film was a success before it was officially released. • On February 22, 2012, The Hunger Games broke the record for first-day advance ticket sales on Fandango, topping the previous record of Eclipse (Twilight). The sales were reported to be 83 percent of the site's totals for the day • The film sold out in over 4,300 showings across the United States.
  9. 9. Tentpole Release • The Hunger Games is what studios call a “tentpole release”. • The term refers to a film that the studio expects to “prop up” the studio for that year. • In other words, they think it’s going to make a lot of money! • For Lionsgate – “The Hunger Games” • For Summit Entertainment – “Twilight”
  10. 10. Marketing Budget • Lionsgate’s marketing staff = 21 people • 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. • Video
  11. 11. Marketing Strategy • Early promotion for “The Hunger Games” started in spring 2009, when Mr. Palen flew to New York to meet with publicity executives from Scholastic to learn about the book franchise.
  12. 12. • 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.
  13. 13. Online Marketing Campaign • However, the campaign’s centrepiece 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 • Live Yahoo streaming from the premiere.
  14. 14. Online Marketing Campaign • May 2011 -the Lionsgate team started methodically releasing information about the casting of the film via Facebook and Twitter.
  15. 15. Online Marketing Campaign • Twitter became an integral part of the marketing campaign for “The Hunger Games” • Fans anticipating the film could actively engage with Lionsgate via social networking. • It was an easy way for fans to be constantly updated on the progress of the film and thus build momentum for the release of the film.
  16. 16. • In July 2011 the first official poster was released via Facebook • Later the same month the first look at photographs of the cast on set were released over Twitter. • Early in August the official release date for the second film “Catching Fire” was released
  17. 17. July 2011 – Comic Con • They had a stand at Comic Con • Gave out copies of a new poster to fans
  18. 18. Teaser Trailer • In August 2011 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. • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsVNNHs3RZE&feature=player_embedde d
  19. 19. The footage did include a Twitter prompt through which fans could discover a Web site for the movie, TheCapitol.pn.
  20. 20. http://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.
  21. 21. • 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.
  22. 22. Main Trailer • November ‘11 marked the iTunes release of the main trailer, which received eight million views in its first 24 hours. • Again, Twitter was used to build up hype prior to the release.
  23. 23. Marketing Campaign • In January 2012, posters were released that featured the main characters of the film.
  24. 24. Online Twitter Puzzle • 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.
  25. 25. • A 100-piece online puzzle. • “The Hunger Games” trended worldwide on Twitter within minutes. • “It was a silly little stunt, but it worked — bam,” Mr. Palen said.
  26. 26. Tumblr • A lavish Tumblr blog called Capitol Couture dedicated to the movie’s unique fashions.
  27. 27. Synergy • “The Hunger Games Adventures” was released on the same day as the film and took the form of a social networking platform
  28. 28. Capitol TV • Capitol TV arrived in February 2012 • A YouTube channel designed to look like the official network of “Panem”. • It combined sneak previews of film footage and user-generated “Hunger Games” videos
  29. 29. • “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?”
  30. 30. Synergy • Lionsgate joined Scribd, Donorschoose.Org, and Scholastic, for The Hunger Games national literacy month campaign • Throughout the month of September, any fan that read The Hunger Games in the Scribd social reader application was entered in “Read a Chapter, Win a Library” for a chance to win a classroom library of books for one of the public schools served by DonorsChoose.org.
  31. 31. From left, Julie Fontaine, Tim Palen and Danielle DePalma, the movie's marketers. 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
  32. 32. BarbieCollector.com announced the arrival of the Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen clone by Mattel - controversy = replicating the character as a Barbie doll feels at odds with the very essence of the character’s power.
  33. 33. The Super Bowl • Lions gate revealed a new trailer for the film at Americans Super Bowl in February 2012. • The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the National Football League (NFL) and is a huge event in America’s calendar
  34. 34. Synergy • The single Safe and Sound by Taylor Swift (played on the film’s credits) reached number one on the iTunes charts soon after its release on 26th Dec 2011 - gaining publicity for the film (as well as revenue). • http://www.youtube.com/watc h?v=RzhAS_GnJIc
  35. 35. Publicity Stunts • 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.’ ”
  36. 36. Publicity Stunts • Throughout March 2012 various members of the cast toured “malls” (shopping centres) across America
  37. 37. Meticulous Planning • 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 colours) 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.”)
  38. 38. Meerkating Skyfall: Sony Pictures $100 million • Olympics opening ceremony • Heineken ad (synergy) • Visit Britain campaign (synergy) • Coke Zero viral campaign (synergy) • Adele song (synergy) • Trailer • Posters • Train ads The Hunger Games: Lionsgate $45 million • Posters • Trailer • Magazine covers • Website • Wiki • Twitter – including treasure hunt • Facebook • Youtube • Tumblr • iPhone
  39. 39. Exhibition • The film was released in the US on 21st March 2012 in both conventional cinemas and digital IMAX cinemas. • It was subsequently released in 23rd March in the UK DVD release dates: • US DVD release date 18th August 2012 • UK DVD release date: 3rd Sept 2012
  40. 40. Hunger games - stats
  41. 41. Comparison – franchise stats
  42. 42. Regulation/global implications • Film ratings are decided in the UK by the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification). The studio were eager for the film to receive a 12A rating (rather than a rating of 15) in order to maximise their ticket sales to the key 12-15 demographic. Children of this age-range would also attend the cinemas in groups or with their parents - which would enable higher ticket sales. • However, the BBFC recommended a number of cuts to be made in order for the film to receive this rating. Seconds had to be cut from the film and blood splatter had to be digitally removed to enable the film to achieve a 12 rating for "intense threat, moderate violence and occasional gory moments". • This demonstrates the stricter policy of British film censors, as the film in the US received a PG-13 rating for "intense violent thematic material and disturbing images – all involving teens". However, no cuts had to be made. • Although the film was successful globally, thanks to the genre's overseas appeal and the successful digital/viral campaign, it wasn't accepted in all countries. • The film was banned in Vietnam, for instance, because of its "extreme violence" and "killing".
  43. 43. Audience appeal • The franchise already had an established fanbase - as the book had been a previous bestseller. • The film did very well at the box office - hauling a worldwide gross of: $677,923,379 (the majority of this coming from North America). It made the largest worldwide opening weekend for a film not released during a holiday period. This was helped by the fact that most cinema goers are between 17 and 24 years of age - who would be most likely to engage with the youthful characters in the film.
  44. 44. The strong female action lead (who was also attractive) also made this popular with both genders. The film's viral marketing also targeted the primary teenage demographic. The film's focus on action to tell the narrative made it appealing to a mainstream audience, but the film's allegorical structure also appeals to a literary and educated audience. A wide range of genres were referenced in the marketing posters to appeal to a wide audience. The film's trailer constructed a dramatic narrative, that appealed to audiences who wanted to escape (or find diversion) into an entertaining story (Uses and Gratifications). It also offered a sense of energy that people may lack in their lives (Richard Dyer).
  45. 45. Audience positioning • Because the narrative follows many of Propp's spheres of action, the audience are positioned to think of certain characters as 'good' and others as 'evil'. These notions are constructed in a variety of ways. • For instance, we support Katniss from the start as the opening scene sees her reassure her sister after a bad dream - she sings as she falls back to sleep, presenting her as maternal, caring and loving. • The audience is also encouraged to sympathise with her, as she walks through District 12, as we are shown many quick shots of people living in abject poverty. • She is then confirmed as a protagonist as we follow her on a hunt - something which she seems very confident with - positioning the audience to think of her as strong, independent and resourceful.
  46. 46. The audience is further positioned to think of the people in District 12 as victims in the 'reaping' scene (where the names of the contestants are picked). The people march in silence towards the stage, heightening the sense of doom. The reaping is filmed to resemble the organisation of Jews at a German WWII death camp - where people are sorted by gender and age. The pale, traditional clothing is also reminiscent of that era and connotes that the people are 'washed out' and afraid. In contrast, the audience is encouraged to view the rulers of the Districts - the Capitol -negatively. The first real sign of them is the hoverplane which flies over Gale and Katniss in the woods. Threatening non-diegetic music (accompanied by invasive diegetic engine noise) positions us to think of it as negative. This is further confirmed by the high-angle shot which sees Gale lead Katniss to cover (both of their faces worried and concerned). We see that the Capitol can strike fear into even confident and assertive characters and therefore positions us to think of them as controlling and powerful.
  47. 47. When Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capitol, the audience is positioned to view people with wealth negatively, as scenes of over-the-top-fashion and wealth work as a binary opposite (contrast) to the poverty in District 12 - a reference, perhaps, to the wealth divide between rich and poor nations in the world. The fact that in nearly all the shots, the people in the Capitol either look happy or superiorly confident (with heads held high) furthers the idea that their life of luxury is at the expense of others. We are also positioned to find the Gamemakers villainous - the head gamemaker - Seneca Crane is given angular facial hair and accentuated eyebrows - which makes him look fierce and almost devil-like. President Snow's stony face makes him seem threatening. We are also positioned to distrust him as his narrative for the propaganda film advertising the Hunger Games displays a warped moral code (he finds it honourable to let children fight to the death).
  48. 48. In the games, themselves, Cato is constructed as a villain. We see him laugh at others' weakness, bully fellow tributes. He smiles when standing over a girl, who his group is about to murder to symbolise that he enjoys the killing (which is furthered by the idea that he volunteered for the games as a 'career tribute'). His bulky physique also gives him an unfair advantage over others - which is most shockingly displayed when he quickly breaks a boy's neck for failing to protect their stash of supplies.
  49. 49. Audience responses • Although the audience is positioned to feel sympathy for Katniss, as well as the plight of black characters in the film, some audience reactions have been quite different - with some comments suggesting underlying racism or misogyny. • For one - there have been debates about body image: A number of critics expressed disappointment in Jennifer Lawrence's casting as Katniss because her weight was not representative of a character who has suffered a life of starvation. Manohla Dargis, in her review of the film for The New York Times stated "[a] few years ago Ms. Lawrence might have looked hungry enough to play Katniss, but now, at 21, her seductive, womanly figure makes a bad fit for a dystopian fantasy about a people starved into submission." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter said that in certain scenes, Lawrence displays "lingering baby fat." These remarks have been rebuked by a number of journalists for pushing unrealistic body image expectations for women. L.V. Anderson of Slate states that "[j]ust as living in a world with abundant calories does not automatically make everyone fat, living in a dystopian world like Panem with sporadic food access would not automatically make everyone skinny. Some bodies, I daresay, would be even bigger than Lawrence's." Since none of Lawrence's male co-stars have come under the same scrutiny, Anderson concludes complaints about Lawrence's weight are inherently sexist.
  50. 50. However, MTV asked for responses from audiences on the controversy and reported that most found criticism of Lawrence's weight "misguided." One response pointed to Collins' physical description of Katniss in The Hunger Games novel which reads "I stand straight, and while I'm thin, I'm strong. The meat and plants from the woods combined with the exertion it took to get them have given me a healthier body than most of those I see around me." Los Angeles Times writer Alexandra Le Tellier commented that "[t]he sexist commentary along with the racist barbs made by so-called fans are as stomach-churning as the film's cultural commentary, which, in part, shines a light on the court of public opinion and its sometimes destructive power to determine someone else's fate."
  51. 51. Similarly offensive comments have also been made about the casting of black actors in the film. In a Jezebel article published March 26, 2012, Dodai Stewart reported that several users on Twitter posted racist tweets, criticizing the portrayals of Rue, Thresh and Cinna by African American actors. In a 2011 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Collins stated that while she did not have any ethnic background in mind for lead characters Katniss and Gale because the book is written in "a time period where hundreds of years have passed" and there would be "a lot of ethnic mixing", she explains "there are some characters in the book who are more specifically described", and states that both Rue and Thresh are African American. Lyneka Little of The Wall Street Journal states that although it is easy to find bigoted or offensive postings online, "the racist 'Hunger Games' tweets, because they are so shockingly ignorant even by the standards of the fringes of the internet, have kicked up a storm." Fahima Haque of The Washington Post, Bim Adewunmi of The Guardian, and Christopher Rosen of The Huffington Post all reiterate the fact that Rue and Thresh are described in The Hunger Games as having dark brown skin, as well as Collins' assertion that they were intended to be depicted as African Americans. Adewunmi remarked that "it comes to this: if the casting of Rue, Thresh and Cinna has left you bewildered and upset, consider two things. One: you may be a racist – congrats! Two: you definitely lack basic reading comprehension. Mazel tov!"
  52. 52. In the viral marketing campaign behind The Hunger Games, the audiences took an active role. As well as spreading clues for the Twitter treasure hunt, fans were able to sign up to become official citizens of Panem. Some audiences have also taken an active role in parodying the film online. YouTube videos such as "How it should have ended" highlight criticisms of the film, including highlighting plot holes and inconsistencies. The Hungover Games has since become a reasonably successfully parody film.

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