According to a lengthy profile on Bloomberg.com, Lionsgate is betting big on its adaptation of the first The Hunger Games novel. The traditionally indie film-focused studio has tried to break into the blockbuster game in recent years with big budget flicks like the Conan the Barbarian reboot and the Taylor Lautner vehicle Abduction, but it hasn’t gone very well. Conan was, by all accounts, an epic flop and Abduction gained some success almost solely thanks to international receipts ($27 million domestic vs. $50 million international). Despite the fact that TV programs like Mad Men and Weeds bring in steady returns, shareholders are losing patience with Lionsgate. All of this adds up to extra pressure on The Hunger Games to do well right out of the gate.
The dystopic, youth adventure story is shaping up to be Lionsgate‘s most expensive film to date. The studio put about $30 million into The Hunger Games during production and, according to Bloomberg, are expected to put another $40 million into marketing and advertising. With the costs of the film already rising to nearly the worldwide gross of Abduction (before you even take in the cost of purchasing the film rights, etc), The Hunger Games is going to need to pull in some serious dough in order to succeed and justify adaptations of the rest of the series. Bloomberg says the series (if it continues after the first film) is expected to bring in anywhere from $220 to $730 million before taxes, interest, and so on.
The article also contains some interesting tidbits about the studio’s approach to Suzanne Collins’s novel, including a few comments by Alli Shearmur. Lionsgate’s president of movie production, Shearmur says the studio is committed to not letting the desire for higher box office profits translate to an overfocus on the violent aspects of The Hunger Games: “We weren’t going to let the violence be gratuitous or the selling point of the franchise […] This is an emotional story about a young girl who sacrifices everything and sets off a revolution she never intended.” Hopefully, this means Lionsgate is just not amping up the violence (of which there is a fair bit in the novel), not that they are whitewashing it completely in favor of the novel’s more romantic aspects.