Based on the young adult novels by Suzanne Collins, the Gary Ross-directed movie is on pace to be the biggest pop culture phenomenon since the “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” series.
The movie stars young actors Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth as a trio of teens fighting to stay alive in Panem, a dystopian society that forces its citizens to pay tribute by fighting to the death on live television.
In the real world, fans are just fighting for tickets to see the film.
The movie is so hotly anticipated that on the first day that advance tickets were offered on Fandango, one month before the movie’s March 23 opening, sales accounted for 83% of the website’s totals. Even more telling, these advance ticket sales broke a Fandango record originally held by the third film im the "Twilight Saga.”
“‘The Hunger Games’ is off to a fantastic start,” Rick Butler, executive vice president and general manager of Fandango, said. “We saw the biggest first day advance ticket sales in our company’s nearly 12-year history — which is especially impressive for a March release and a non-sequel.”
So it should come as no surprise that according to a Fandango poll, “The Hunger Games” is the most anticipated franchise of the year.
Still, not everyone is aware of this new cultural phenomenon.
According to Robert Thompson, professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, “If I walked out in my neighborhood, where there are very few young people, and asked the first 20 people that I saw what they thought about ‘The Hunger Games,’ my guess would be that most would think it was a Special Olympics for people that needed food.”
Thompson, though, does not believe this is an ominous sign for the upcoming movie.
“I could have said that same thing about ‘Twilight’ before the first movie came out,” he said. “And now everyone knows what it is.”
If cross-marketing is any indication of success, soon everyone will know of “The Hunger Games” as well.
Already there is a “Hunger Games” cookbook, jewelry, nail polish collection, line of T-shirts, a workout routine, laptop computer, greeting cards, iPod case and, of course, a wide variety of action figures.
For Ben Lyons, correspondent for Extra and GlobalGrind.com, the appeal of “The Hunger Games” lies in both its universally appealing plot and the movie’s cast.
“People love reading about survival, that end-of-the-world kind of story,” he said. “I have never met anyone, man or woman, who has read ‘The Hunger Games’ [books] and didn't like them. I can’t say the same about ‘Twilight’.”
Which might be why more than 16 million books from the trilogy have been sold in the United States since 2008.
“They also really nailed it with the casting,” said Lyons. “Kristen Stewart and Rob Pattinson were virtually unknown before ‘Twilight,’ but Jennifer Lawrence is an Academy Award-nominated actress. Liam Hemsworth has been tabloid material for a while. There is far more name recognition with this film.
“And by including Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson, they elevate the quality of the film even more.”
The goal of turning “The Hunger Games” into movies is to literally have them jump off the screen. So don’t be surprised if fans start to dress as their favorite characters.
While there are no vampires, werewolves or magicians in the film, futuristic costumes — think about a girl dressed in fire — play a major role in the trilogy and have led to mass interest in how they will be portrayed on the big screen.
To capitalize on the fashion interest in the film, Lionsgate even created a “Capitol Couture” blog dedicated to the movie’s wardrobes.
Though still not sure the trilogy will reach “Harry Potter” popularity, Thompson can envision adults dressing as their favorite “Hunger Games” characters.
“It’s true that we grow up, but the idea that we grow out of the appeal of young, adult novels is totally wrong,” he said. “This story has everything — breathtaking romance, the idea that you are an outsider, and incredibly beautiful people.