Underneath ‘The Hunger Games”

The Hunger Games opens today, or more precisely last night. It is going to blow people’s socks off.

First the film is well done and should garner very good to excellent critical assessment. Rotten Tomatoes has it at 86%. Then there are the fans of the book. They will be pleased. I have not read the books, but two sources, whom I respect, have assured me, the film is a very good adaptation. For the newbies, who haven’t read the film but are aware of a cultural moment, the film will engage and entertain.

Lions Gate films, the studio and distributor, basically bet the house on this film. The budget was $90 million, but take off $12 million for tax incentives. Now toss in about $100 million for advertising and PR. the film cost just south of $200 million. They have gambled big. Now will they win big?

The predictions are that the film will gross around $120 million this weekend. I expect that number to be higher. It is conceivable that Lions Gate could see the film go into the black on it’s opening week, especially if you toss in global box office.

Good thing, too. Carl Icahn, a minority stockholder, has been lobbying hard to fire the management at Lions Gate. Icahn is euphemistically called a business magnate. A better term would be corporate raider. The success of The Hunger Games will keep him at bay.

So the managers at Lions Gate preserve their jobs. The film will make a ton of money. Jennifer Lawrence who plays Katniss, the heroine, will be huge. The audiences will be pleased and everyone will be happy.

Yet underneath all of this good news are a few darker elements.

The independent theaters who play films like The Hunger Games are under siege. This film will simply accelerate their demise or force a change in their economic model. This will be discussed in a blog this coming week.

The inevitable sequel, and there are three already planned, will be much darker in tone, as are the books they will be based on. This in itself is not bad or dark. Instead, if the successive films are cultural blockbusters as the first one will be, then this will say much about where we are as a society. This too will be explored in an upcoming blog.

Go and see The Hunger Games. Enjoy it. Afterwards start thinking about what you saw. Yes, it is about a young woman being triumphant, but consider where she came from. Consider where some of the other ‘tributes’ came from. Then ask yourself, is this movie an indictment against the 1%?


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