Friday, January 28, 2011

'Hunger Games' Release Date: Why March 23, 2012 Bodes Well For The Film

Here's what we know so far about the film adaption of Suzanne Collins' bestselling "Hunger Games" trilogy: "Pleasantville" director Gary Ross is helming the project, it will have a satisfactory PG-13 rating, and thanks to an announcement yesterday from Lionsgate, it will be released on March 23, 2012. The only integral information we need now is who will play the three leads, Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark and Gale Hawthorne (no biggie, right?). With the casting process already underway, we're expecting a big announcement any day now.

But back to yesterday's release date news. While it might seem insignificant when put in the context of these other, arguably bigger reveals, the fact that Lionsgate chose that specific weekend says a lot about how they're going to market the film. Not only will they capitalize on the upcoming Easter weekend when much of "The Hunger Games"'s target audience will be on vacation from school, but the release date is breaking the trend of previous teen-targeted film franchises like "Harry Potter" and "Twilight."

If "The Hunger Games" were to follow in the footsteps of "Harry Potter" or "Twilight," it would choose to capitalize on either the late June/July blockbuster season or the weekend before Thanksgiving. But it's not. Smart because there are a lot of big blockbusters headed to theaters in summer 2012, and "Breaking Dawn: Part 2" already claimed the November opening date, nonetheless, it is a ballsy choice for Lionsgate to release "Hunger Games" so early in the year (though as fans, we're glad we don't have to wait too long).

Last year's young adult-targeted "How To Train Your Dragon" was the first film with a March release date in recent years to really make a mark on the box office. It made $44 million in its opening weekend (almost $30 million more than "Alice in Wonderland" and "Hot Tub Time Machine" released in the same month), and then went on to gross over $217 million in the United States and $493 million worldwide. And Zack Snyder's "Sucker Punch" will likely make a similar move this year with its March 25 release.

Though we obviously haven't seen "Sucker Punch" yet, it looks to combine a dystopian, "fight the power" futuristic world with high concept fantasy, something that sounds a lot like "The Hunger Games." Whether it delivers is something else entirely, but the film is definitely one of the more highly anticipated of 2011 and is likely to bring in a decent box office draw that opening weekend.

It's almost a given that "The Hunger Games" will be a success and, if "Sucker Punch" is successful as well, we could be looking at another big studio release date. February and March are usually not known for their boffo film debuts, but the barren landscape post-Academy Awards could be remedied by turning the final days of March into the prime release date for young adult-geared fantasies. And the way YA novels are being snapped up nowadays, that seems like it could be a good thing to have.

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