We knew that Lionsgate was going to do various things to keep the Hunger Games brand alive, from the stage show, to theme parks, and potentially prequels or sequels. Today they confirmed the prequel route during a presentation.
The world of Panem is intriguing, and we’ve been open to world expansion in ways that make sense and respect the themes of the source material. So we were dismayed when we saw this quote from the Vice Chairman of Lionsgate in The Hollywood Reporter piece.
“The one thing that kids say they missed (from the early Hunger Games films) was there was no arenas,” he said, referencing the stadiums where children killed each other and noting the prior films only covered the 74th and 75th competitions. “If we went backwards there obviously would be arenas.”
Kids these days love their arenas. Big money in the arenas! MORE ARENAS!
Ok, from a business perspective, we understand what he’s saying. We also don’t doubt that they’ve done some research where some “kids” say they missed the GAMES part of Hunger Games. Violence sells. The first two movies had much better box office than the later 2, and the presence of the simple put-24-in-an-arena-to-kill-each-other structure was easier for general audiences to understand than more complex propaganda and consequences of war themes. But there were many more reasons why the first two movies did better. The fast pace of the 4 movies’ release and the book split played a part in the Mockingjay movies box office decline. Another big factor was the massive dip in resources put into marketing the final two films. The reason was not as simple as “no arena” (even though MJ2 has an arena, THE CAPITOL).
Overall, it’s such a cynical thing to say. And so contrary to the themes of the books (and movies!). We’re cool with you keeping this world alive and creatively vibrant but please tell us that’s not really how you’re approaching these prequels. We respect Lionsgate for allowing the creative team to make the Mockingjay movies as true to the book’s themes as they were. Maybe they didn’t make as much money as the first two, but the answer is not to just repeat the same formula from the first two movies. Just as the lack or arenas was not the sole reason for the lower box office of the Mockingjay movies, the presence of arenas was definitely not the only thing in THG and Catching Fire’s favor. It had great characters, story, and relevance to our lives. THAT was the brilliance behind it. THAT is the bigger reason for the success.
With these prequels, at least put a creative team in place that sees beyond the bread and circuses path to easy money. Please tell us great stories that stay true to the themes that brought us to this world in the first place. If you do that, there’s a chance for these prequels. If you don’t, you’ll just destroy the legacy of the movies while diminishing this brand that is currently so valuable.
Tread carefully, and thoughtfully, and just maybe the odds will be in your favor.