The Mockingjay Cash Cow

As a Hunger Games fan are you feeling neglected? Left to roam the pasture alone? Well, maybe it’s because after the massive success of Catching Fire, Mockingjay is being treated as a cash cow? Yes, it seems the Mockingjay goes moo.

be careful haymitchNo, I haven’t completely lost my mind. I was just listening in to the Lionsgate quarterly earnings conference call today and I started thinking about how this could possibly be playing a role in the lack of promotion. There were a few tidbits learned from the call, like the new mobile game that will be launched, the Hunger Games museum exhibition in 2015, and confirmation that some lucky people in Cannes did actually see Mockingjay Part 1 footage, but mostly it was about other topics (and so I didn’t care). And these three tidbits are of minor interest to me as a fan anyway. I’m primarily here for the movies, and the promotion of the movies. The promotion of the movies is really fun too, but unfortunately this go round has been extremely lacking up to this point.

Indulge me in my silly theory for a moment. For Lionsgate, the fact that the Hunger Games franchise has become their cash cow is great. A cash cow is fantastic thing for a business to have. It’s a concept designed by a business consulting firm ages ago and is now basically a part of every Intro to Strategy course. A cash cow has high market share but is operating in a mature industry with low growth. The idea is modeled after a dairy cow – once you have it on your farm, you just leave it to roam the fields and it keeps pumping out lots of sweet, delicious milk over the years.

Hey, be careful who you're calling a cow!

Hey, be careful who you’re calling a cow!

And there’s no question that The Hunger Games and Catching Fire have pumped out lots of milk. A lot of the success is to the credit of how they launched (and invested in) the franchise. And now that the first two films were massive successes, they are confident Mockingjay movies will continue to churn out more milk. The audience will come back for more without much bidding. Now, I don’t think the Mockingjay movies fit exactly in this bucket, because there’s clearly room for growth at the box office internationally.  But, from our outside perspective, it seems that they’re investing less TIME at least on promoting Mockingjay as compared to THG or Catching Fire. I’m just praying that they don’t skimp on investment in the actual movie production. Please, please, NO.

For the business, having a cash cow is great. For the cow it’s not necessarily bad either. You get to do your thing and not be bothered so much. Well, until you stop producing milk and are put down.

However, if you’re a “city dweller” with no access to the farm (ALL OF US) it’s a sad situation, so I’m not going to pretend to be happy about Mockingjay’s status. And it’s not to say that in the month or two before the film comes out it won’t be MOCKINGJAY PART 1 EVERYWHERE. I’m sure it will, billboards and ad spot after ad spot. That’s just the necessity of movie marketing. It’s a shame that promotion has become so bare-bones in the meantime, because all the build up and the promotion is a huge part of the fun for mega-fans like us.

So in the meantime, we rely on awesome, talented fans to continue to do the promotion. Like this amazingly edited fan-made Mockingjay Part 1 trailer.

Thank you to the talented fans who keep the fun alive while we CONTINUE TO WAIT.




  1. Can we talk about how CHEAP Lionsgate has been with this franchise? The budget for the first film was lower just $78M, which is lower than Divergent, but I’ll let them off with that because this film was a gamble at the time and Lionsgate was still a minor studio. But after a near critically acclaimed film that went to earn over $400M in the US (which is like the first non-sequel to do it) and nearly $700M worldwide AND the biggest selling DVD of the year with total sales of like $200M or something, off a $40M marketing budget total, they decide to give Catching Fire – guaranteed to make over $1B when you factor in box office, DVD sales and merchandise, a production budget of $130M and a $50M marketing budget. It always astounds me on how less they’re investing in their franchise, especially on the marketing side of things and they wonder why they’re not doing as well in the foreign markets. Harry Potter films spent up to $200M on their marketing, while most blockbusters these days that gross half of what HG and CF do at the box office, have a budget of up to $200M (with TASM and DOFP’s budget most recently being of $200M+).

    Now with Mockingjay, they’ve decided to give the films a $250M budget, which is around the same as Breaking Dawn. Mockingjay is a LOT bigger of a film, it deserves to have a higher budget especially when the films are going to make Lionsgate $2.5B. Not to mention the higher actors salaries for the cast, (Jen, Liam, Josh, Jeffrey, Woody, Stanley, Donald, Julianne, Philip, to name a few).

    1. The budget for THG was small for a movie of its subject matter, but I agree it was a risk to spend more because there was no guarantee it would be the huge success that it became. With CF the budget went up, but not to the level that other studios might go with a franchise this huge on their hands. I don’t think it really needed any extra production budget though. And I think the US marketing campaign was great. So if you can make it work in a cost effective way, all the better. I’m less aware of the international marketing, but it does seem like there is room to grow (invest) there more.

      My frustration is the lack of attention to the little things this go round. Maybe we were spoiled with CF. Maybe they were blocked from doing things because of the priority of the Divergent launch, and then X-Men blocked it again. I have no clue what is holding it back, but there are lots of inexpensive viral things that could have been done if money was a factor. So why are we entering June with virtually no promotion? I’ve run out of possible explanations and it’s disheartening.

    2. Lionsgate is not one of the major studios yet, and they can’t afford to spend as much as the major studios spend for their blockbusters.

      The major studios have a much higher income, and can afford to spend more on their movies while also making more or them, thus getting even more money. Lionsgate is getting there, but it still isn’t.

      That’s why they can’t spend as much as other studios spend for marketing purposes… but still, I’m sure they’re making sure we get the best possible movie while also not spending all they have.

  2. Love your cash cow diagram 😀

    In real life I’m in finance, so I can say I think you are absolutely on target with this analysis. From a business perspective Lionsgate is pretty smart about the budget side of things. Films are a risky and unpredictable business. You can control some of the risk if you diversify the corporation (getting into theme parks, other media, like Disney and Universal), or sell out to a deep-pocket buyer (Universal’s done this more than once), or spread the risk by sharing/selling off part of the rights & profits (Lionsgate does this all the time).

    But keeping a tight rein on the budget is a huge, mega positive. A media company that does not let the budget or the executives run wild can afford to take more risks on indie-type projects; they know how to make money with a series of $150 million films, rather than counting on everything being a blockbuster.

    What do you love most about film? My vote will always go for variety. Too many Hollywood ‘blockbusters’ look the same and are aimed at the same audiences (ahem, yes, we’re talking about you, young males of the species!). We all know we’re going to see Mockingjay and will drink it in no matter how many trailers we see or don’t see–they know it, we know it and so what?

    So while I pant and hope longingly for a great new MJ trailer, I’ll also raise my glass to the next great film that none of use have even imagined yet and to any film company that’s smart enough to keep enough money on hand to take a real risk now and then 🙂

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