Welcome to the YA Movie Countdown, our resident expert’s continuing guide to young adult book-to-film adaptations.
Strong marketing push or no marketing push at all, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is bound to demolish the box office on November 22. However, this is Lionsgate we’re talking about, and if we learned anything while watching the company handle the release of the first Hunger Games film, it’s that its marketing team is on point. But, even though the Web is currently oversaturated with Catching Fire goodies well worth watching and reading, a few other potential book-to-film franchises are clawing at some of the young-adult hype.
Here’s a rundown of some of the biggest need-to-know YA movie items of the past couple of weeks.
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is only eight days away and that means the marketing campaign is in overdrive. Google Catching Fire and you’ll be flooded with a wealth of interviews, premiere photos, clips, TV spots and more, but in an effort to whittle down the vast amount of material, we’ve pinpointed five must-know, must-see items.
1. Josh Hutcherson to Host SNL
Mark your calendars because according to The Wrap, our very own Peeta Mellark, Josh Hutcherson, will host Saturday Night Live on November 23 with musical guest HAIM. Jennifer Lawrence may not have gotten the best material when she hosted the show back in January, but her natural charm and all-in effort sustained the episode well enough. Hopefully the SNL team will come up with better bits so we aren’t stuck watching Hutcherson play a dog on “Top Dog Chef.”
2. Vicious Cornucopia Revealed in New TV Spot
With the film just days away, TV spots and clips are all over the place. Every single one of them is well worth watching, but there’s one particularly noteworthy TV spot due to just a few seconds of material. The piece runs through the basics, showing Katniss rocking her bow and then teasing the Hunger Games hype in the Capitol, but the crowning jewel is the final moment that reveals the power of the Cornucopia of the 75th Hunger Games. The event is already exponentially more vicious having traded the newbie lineup for Hunger Games victors, but this small snippet also offers a sense of how Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his cohorts are upping the intensity of the arena itself as well.
3. Jennifer Lawrence Is Amazing and This Proves It
Need more proof that Jennifer Lawrence is one of the most deserving superstars out there? Watch this video of Lawrence walking off the red carpet at the Catching Fire premiere in London to hug a crying fan. Red carpets, especially for a Hunger Games movie, are pure pandemonium. You don’t have quiet moments. However, here, Lawrence made that happen and clearly made one fan’s day, and that act of kindness really does rock the power to move you to tears.
4. Hunger Games Theme Park in the Works
An arena in which kids kill kids doesn’t really seem like a prime setting for a family-friendly theme park, but as reported by THR, Lionsgate is considering opening a Hunger Games amusement park. Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer told analysts, “We have been approached in two different territories about potential theme park opportunities, which gives you a sense of the cultural impact of this franchise.” He added, “"We are excited about those opportunities and are pursuing them.”
5. Catching Fire Box Office Forecast
The Hunger Games cost $78 million. Catching Fire, on the other hand, ran up a tab north of $130 million. Considering Hunger Games came close to scoring $700 million worldwide during its theatrical run after which it likely made loads more on DVD, VOD, etc., a budget increase was inevitable. But still, a $52 million jump is quite the leap. According to THR, the main elements that contributed to the bigger price tag were the $10 million-plus visual effects cost, Lawrence’s significant pay raise (which took her from $500,000 to a whopping $10 million) and the $30 million that was put towards the film’s additional locations.
That’s a serious chunk of change, but considering Deadline’s insider predicts that Catching Fire’s opening weekend haul will fall between $140 and $150 million, it’s a total nonissue. I’m actually going to say the film will beat the first film’s $152.5 million start and open north of $160. Even though Thor: The Dark World will only be in its third weekend when Catching Fire arrives, it’s really the only powerhouse contender. The only thing opening against Catching Fire is Delivery Man and that likely won’t make much of a dent, and neither will the November 15 release The Best Man Holiday. Catching Fire could take a bigger weekend-one-to-two hit because Frozen could be a stronger contender than Wrath of the Titans and Mirror Mirror, but as far as weekend one goes, Catching Fire will obliterate the current records.
Divergent has been revving up its marketing campaign lately and it’s likely an effort to ride the Hunger Games wave. Day by day, Summit dished out a series of character posters featuring the film’s Dauntless leads – Shailene Woodley (Tris), Theo James (Four), Maggie Q (Tori), Mekhi Phifer (Max), Jai Courtney (Eric), Zoe Kravitz (Christina) and Miles Teller (Peter). To top it all off, we also the final one-sheet featuring Four and Tris, high above a dystopian Chicago. You can catch the entire set of posters over at IMP Awards.
And of course the big-ticket item is the brand new full trailer for the film, and it’s leaps and bounds beyond that first teaser. Whereas the one-minute-and-15-second promo felt more like homework, desperately delivering information in an effort to convey the concept, this one has a far more natural flow, embedding that information in action and honest emotion.
Here, the more exposition-heavy portion of the piece is actually the strongest. The details of the Choosing Ceremony are beautifully strung together, painting a trailer-appropriate picture of what the event is and also creating an impeccable build that explodes in the discovery that Tris is Divergent. There’s also a notable variation of camerawork, all of which serves a clear purpose – to enhance the moment – and that proves to be a particularly effective technique during Tris’ aptitude test.
Upon literally jumping into the Dauntless portion of Tris’ story, the trailer leans a little more towards a generic action movie, but the lull during the training 101 portion of the piece makes the reminder that Tris is Divergent all the more powerful.
The only thing missing from this trailer is the other Dauntless initiates. However, now that Summit has presented the basics of the current state of Chicago and the faction structure twice, there’s a good chance a subsequent trailer could dig deeper into Tris’ experience after jumping into the Pit.
THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS
Having cost $60 million to make, $80 million at the worldwide box office is just not going to cut it. It seemed as though Constantin got the hint when the company opted to put the Mortal Instruments: City of Bones sequel on hold, but now according to THR, City of Ashes will restart production next year.
Martin Moszkowicz, Constantin Film’s head of film and TV stated, "The fan response, from the blogosphere and the thousands of mails we have received, has encouraged us to keep going.” He added, “We are analyzing what we did wrong with the first film -- particularly with the positioning and marketing -- and what changes we have to make. We are working with a great group of people to reposition the franchise [for City of Ashes].”
But at this point, does marketing and a great team of talent even matter? Clearly very few moviegoers caught the first film, so why would someone who hasn’t seen City of Bones opt to pay for City of Ashes? Even the strongest marketing campaign imaginable can’t fill that gap. Hopes are high that Constantin and the rest of the parties involved will really learn from certain creative missteps and deliver a stronger second installment quality-wise, but in regards to actually selling the next film to moviegoers, it’s going to be an arduous, if not impossible uphill battle.
Ender’s Game, on the other hand, is a toss-up. Twenty-seven million dollars isn’t necessarily a sequel-worthy opening, but it’s still a strong start. The film’s 62% weekend-one-to-two decline doesn’t bode well for another round either, but what can you expect when a movie like Thor: The Dark World moves in?
Lionsgate is clearly aware of the film’s franchise potential and the risk involved because, according to Variety, Lionsgate will give Ender’s Game a week or two in theaters before making a decision on whether or not to move forward with a new installment.
Even though Lionsgate’s Feltheimer did pinpoint that specific time period, I wouldn’t be surprised if the company nixed Ender’s Game 2 now, but revisited the idea after Divergent arrives in March. Should Divergent really turn out to be the next Hunger Games, Lionsgate will have no problem parting with Ender’s Game or perhaps just moving forward with that TV spin-off that’s under consideration. However, if Divergent doesn’t deliver, which is unlikely, that could be enough of a reason to give Ender another go.
The YA Movie Countdown runs here on Movies.com every other Wednesday.
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