Does The Hunger Games’ international box-office performance signal the beginning of the next Twilight-sized franchise? Ian Sandwell analyses the figures.
Not content with its mammoth $152.5m opening in North America - the third biggest of all time - The Hunger Games has continued to break records in the US, which include becoming the fastest non-sequel to cross $250m, in just 10 days of release.
It is hard for its international performance not to seem rather pale in comparison - the film has amassed $229.5m as of April 29, following a $59.3m debut from 67 markets day-and-date with the US. The debut was lower than both Wrath Of The Titans ($76.1m from 60) and John Carter ($66.1m from 51).
That international launch is still impressive, especially when viewed in the context of being the first in a franchise based on a series better known in the US, where author Suzanne Collins’ trilogy has sold 36.5 million copies.
Given the behemoth the Twilight franchise has become, it is easy to forget its humble beginnings. The original Twilight took $199.8m in its international run - the latest instalment Breaking Dawn: Part 1 more than doubled that at $423.8m. In the US, The Hunger Games has already overtaken Twilight’s $192.8m haul, and has passed even the highest-grossing instalment: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse’s $300.5m.
It is a pattern that has been repeated internationally on the whole: in Australia The Hunger Games achieved an opening of almost double that of the first Twilight and has already overtaken its total gross in Australia of $23.2m (a$22.4m); in Germany The Hunger Games drew in bigger audiences than Twilight in its second and third weeks - 511,000 and 440,000 admissions to Twilight’s 500,000 and 361,000 admissions.
The message is clear: move over Twilight, there is a new game in town.
Despite opening on a weekend with unseasonably good weather, The Hunger Games was the biggest debut of the year at that time in the UK on $7.8m (£4.9m).
The European premiere was held in the UK, with leads Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth in attendance. Distributor Lionsgate worked closely with the book’s publisher Scholastic to boost awareness.
“The first Hunger Games book [in the UK] has sold 275,000 units, that’s only 1% of the number of homes in the UK,” notes Zygi Kamasa, co-founder and chief executive of Lionsgate UK. “It is also 20% less than the first Twilight [book] sold before the first Twilight came out. That movie opened on $4m [£2.5m] and we’ve almost doubled that even though we sold fewer books.”
Strong week-on-week holds, in spite of competition from Sony’s The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists, Warner Bros’ Wrath Of The Titans and StudioCanal’s Mirror Mirror, has seen The Hunger Games amass $35.6m in the UK (as of April 29), the highest gross in an international territory for the film.
A focus on social media and the novel formed the basis of StudioCanal’s marketing campaign in Germany, which has led to The Hunger Games grossing $20m (as of April 29) despite local competition from Turkish For Beginners and Russian Disco.
An official Facebook page had more than 100,000 fans before the film’s release as a result of activities including ‘Panem Fan of the Week’ and a raffle to win tickets to the German premiere, which was attended by the film’s stars.
The book campaign supported print sales and brand awareness via marketing tools such as booklets containing excerpts from the novel, which were distributed in cinemas. Book sales before the film’s release totalled 700,000 copies; since release, sales have increased with all three books in the trilogy in Der Spiegel’s bestseller chart.
“The key was to combine a long-term brand-building strategy with a maximum push towards the release date. Being in the number-one position for three weeks proves the campaign worked out really well,” says Kalle Friz, executive vice-president theatrical distribution, StudioCanal Germany.
Across its eight biggest markets, The Hunger Games faced its toughest local competition in Germany - and France. Opening one week after Cloclo, the biopic of hugely popular musician Claude Francois, and two weeks before Alain Chabat’s long-awaited animation Houba! On The Trail Of The Marsupilami, The Hunger Games has garnered 1.6 million admissions (as of April 29) after debuting on top. It has not managed to beat the original Twilight’s tally of 2.4 million after the same number of weeks on release.
That said, given the strong competition - Wrath Of The Titans arrived a week later - The Hunger Games has shown decent resilience. It increased 6% in its third week thanks to solid brand recognition - around 360,000 copies of the trilogy have been sold - and social media presence, with the official Facebook page at more than 101,000 ‘likes’.
Media coverage was also boosted by a premiere held in Paris, attended by the film’s stars including Lawrence and director Gary Ross.
Despite none of the film’s stars attending the simultaneous premieres held in Melbourne and Sydney, The Hunger Games grossed more in Australia than any other territory on its opening international weekend.
A $9.5m debut was almost $2m ahead of the closest market (the UK’s $7.8m) and surpassed the original Twilight’s debut of $5.6m, marking a strong opening for the first in a franchise, even if the final result was not as big as tracking had originally expected.
An early marketing boost came from a competition on distributor Roadshow’s Facebook page to win a set visit in July 2011, with Australia being one of only four countries offering such a prize.
The biggest Latin American market, Mexico has so far contributed $13.9m (as of April 29) to The Hunger Games’ international haul, outpacing the first Twilight’s performance of $9.8m.
Distributor Videocine used Twitter to run film-related competitions for books and posters, with the twist that entrants had to have seen the film to enter.
Lawrence and Hemsworth attended a press conference and fan event in February in Mexico City.
As well as running competitions similar to other markets - with prizes such as autographed film posters - on the official Facebook page (around 146,000 ‘likes’ to date), national newspaper O Globo also got in on the act with Twitter competitions to win copies of the book and tickets to a preview.
Further online coverage included the likes of entertainment website Omelete also running competitions and coverage of the film, including new trailers and posters, in the lead-up to its release.
Distributor Paris Filmes published fan-reaction videos from preview screenings on its YouTube channel, and promoted these on Facebook.
The Hunger Games has attracted more than 1 million admissions since its release.
A strong Scandinavia-wide $3.7m opening weekend saw The Hunger Games impress most in Sweden, with a $1.5m number-one debut toppling local TV adaptation Kvarteret Skatan.
By its second week, it had overtaken the first Twilight’s tally of $2.2m. However Twilight never played as wide as The Hunger Games. The latter has benefited from a marketing campaign billing The Hunger Games as a new phenomenon in line with Twilight and Harry Potter.
Coverage across various media platforms included advertisements conveying critical acclaim from national newspapers such as Aftonbladet and Expressen, alongside competitions on its official Facebook site - which currently has around 28,000 ‘likes’ - to win tickets.
The Hunger Games’ social media presence in Russia was strong, with various contests arranged and prizes including screenings for winners and their friends.
Distributor VolgaFilm also printed a special edition of the first Hunger Games book, with a teaser poster wraparound attached to the cover. These were distributed in schools, colleges and universities. Volga also organised a contest through the Cinema Park multiplexes - the largest theatrical chain in Russia - with prizes including a visit to London for The Hunger Games’ European premiere.
The film went on to take $6.2m over its opening weekend - six times the amount of Twilight’s debut of $900,000, though The Hunger Games did open on significantly more screens (1,165 compared to 246).
The Hunger Games: box office in major territories
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