Does the Allegiant Box Office Performance Make Hunger Games Prequels More Likely – Or Less?

In the wake of the disappointing box office returns for The Divergent Series: Allegiant (down 44% from the last movie), opinions abound about what this means for that movie series, for YA dystopian movies, and YA movies in general.

We’re familiar with this media speculation, having seen all the questions about the Mockingjay movies box office decreases (albeit, not nearly as serious profitability-wise since even though they decreased from the MASSIVE Catching Fire box office, Mockingjay 1 and 2 still both made HUGE amounts of money). We wonder though, how it may affect Lionsgate’s thinking about those rumored Hunger Games prequel plans.  Will the declines make them more nervous to pursue them because they think the public is tired of the YA dystopian trend? Or will the need to beef up their theatrical slate with known properties make them move forward even faster?

MagsVictoryTourPosterIt’s no question that the Hunger Games brand is still strong. Lionsgate is going to want to use it to drive more revenue. But we admit to being very nervous about theatrical prequel movies.  How are we going to respond to a story that doesn’t revolve around Katniss? How are they not going to make prequel stories about past Hunger Games hugely depressing? Granted, these stories could focus more on the political/social aspects of Panem and less on the Games themselves, but if Lionsgate’s initial public statements hold true about the kids’ desire for arenas, call us doubtful that a Hunger Games political thriller-style will happen. (But look at Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Comic book movie that meets political thriller and SO GOOD. It could work).

It is possible that Lionsgate gets spooked by the “people are tired of dystopian YA” talk. Or at least, decides to put in a bit more time and breathing room for the public to miss the world of Panem before moving ahead with plans.

If any prequels or spin-offs happen, Lionsgate is moving into new, risky territory with this still valuable, known property. Perhaps Lionsgate will wait to see how the Harry Potter prequels perform and use that as a template in moving forward.  If they do, we should point out that a great asset to the Harry Potter prequels is the involvement of JK Rowling. It sounds, at least for now, that Suzanne Collins is done with the Hunger Games universe. So if Lionsgate does want to do spin-offs in the near-ish future, they’d best be politely knocking on her door with some good, non-exploitative ideas.

That could be a tough one.

JJ

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9 comments

  1. Initially I was entirely against any form of continuation of the Hunger Games franchise or anything at all having to do with it until the possibility of prequels as a political thriller idea came up.
    It was horribly disappointing(understatement) to hear from the head of Lions Gate in their opinion that the answer to their financial “problems” was more violence. To me it seemed like they were overlooking more sensible aspects to these movies. No one seems to talk about the lack of suspense from Catching Fire to MJ Pt. 2, and I believe this took place because the studio’s focus shifted from entertainment (CF) to suspense (Part 1) to ACTION! (Part 2, of course) and it was inconsistent.
    So to come out and very ignorantly say “we needed more fighting and death and violence” was just a desperate grab to gage what people were looking for and why the audience didn’t find that in the last HG movie. And that mindset is very naive.

    However, if they can take a step back and by some miracle the political thriller approach could reach them I think it could something that work and more people, myself included, could be more comfortable with like you said. I say this because at the moment, the thought of expounding upon the HG world repulses me and brings tears to my eyes xD. So hopefully they get it right.

  2. Good write-up; I’ve been wondering about this as well.
    I think they’re well aware of the difference between THG and Divergent. No offense to Divergent fans, but let’s just say that I am not one. I also think that “dystopian YA fatigue” is a thing, but mainly due to the (lol, fifth) wave of apparent “copycats” that tried to walk in THG’s footprints (with varying degrees of earnestness.) None, imo, come close to living up.

    I could easily see a sequel/prequel/spinoff coming eventually, and the best way to describe my attitude toward expansion might be “nervouscited.” It could be extremely awesome. It could be extremely bad. Depends whether they continue to take this story seriously, or get desperate and try to rush things. Like Jen said–best to let the body get cold, or at least cool off a bit. People didn’t react spectacularly to the announcement of possibly making more while MJ2 was still in theaters.

    I’d say there’s enough to learn historically that a non-Katniss-inclusive Hunger Games story wouldn’t necessarily be a turn-off. What I definitely don’t think should happen is a movie(s) about (a) random past Hunger Games. Getting to know some other Victors and tributes wouldn’t be uninteresting, but what’s ultimately the point of just introducing a new “Katniss” character to follow through his/her Games, who isn’t Katniss? If you assume the main character becomes the Victor, then…you’ll have the basic idea of how it ends up, but there isn’t the larger story to continue on with, so…yeah. That’s just not the strongest idea, if you ask me. Better to focus on something new–the political/social stuff, the country’s history, figure out what’s going on with the rest of the world, find out what it’s like & what’s going on after the revolution, etc. If you explore backstories, some people’s (e.g., Haymitch, Finnick, Johanna, Mags) are going to necessarily involve the Games. But please, don’t let the “kids miss arenas” thing be the guiding principle. Despite the overarching title, there’s more to this world.

    Following the Harry Potter template seems to be a goal, honestly–considering the final-book split, that stage show adaptation of the first book that was supposed to be happening, and of course…the theme park (for which I’ve so far heard approval from Nina & Willow, so my hopes are a little bit higher. Even though I don’t think they said anything specific about it.)
    And I do love HP as well, so the notion of them being sort of “sister franchises” is appealing. (At the fan marathon event, Willow was asked what she would use for a THG crossover, and she said Harry Potter. Smartie-pants!! Not like I’ve imagined the HG cast as witches & wizards at Hogwarts or anything like that…) But anyways, the last sentence really says it–the success of both these series so far is largely thanks to the original author’s close involvement in the filmmaking process. (I mean, you can see for yourself what often happens when the studio, *ahem*, diverges from the source material…)

    JK was done with Harry, but has since nonetheless been spitting out tidbits of additional info here & there, and now we’re getting both a prequel film AND a sequel play. She evidently had the time needed to determine what was next and how to approach sharing it. I more than understand the need for a break, and hope nobody tries to pressure SC into writing something she doesn’t feel like writing. I’d just hope that if something new does happen here too, she’s involved as the approving guide, at the very least.

  3. As I’ve posted before, I do think that Haymitch’s Games story actually does hold promise of being adapted into a prequel that could satisfy both the fandom and the general audience. Of course, SC only revealed the bare outline, but that wouldn’t be just a “random past Games”, though there would be an arena involved, there’s 1 real love triangle involving Katniss’s parents + Mr. M, and the sort-of love triangle with Haymitch, Maysilee and Haymitch’s GF, and room to show more of Snow’s political machinations. Though I guess Donald Sutherland would be the only actor from the original trilogy who’d make it in.

    As for HP, I confess I have mixed feelings about the recent expansion of that universe. Even many fans have accused JKR of a mere money grab. The Newt Scamander film seems to be more of a “spin-off” than a prequel, and aimed at a younger audience than the original series, somewhat like the Hobbit in relation to the Lord of the Rings (at least where the books are concerned).

    But the sequel play seems to reveal a lot about what happens to the adult Harry, and I get the feeling from some JKR comments about it preserving the “darkness” of the original series, one reason JKR contribute to it, is because of critique that the Epilogue she originally wrote was too trite and simple, that it showed a rather bland Happily Ever After ending that didn’t ring true.

    As most of us probably know, the Epilogue ends “all was well”, but the title and promos for the play imply it will show that all is NOT well in the post-Voldemort WW. So is there going to be some ret-conning involved here? Especially considering her remarks that the Ron-Hermione ending was unrealistic, is she going to show strife in that marriage?

    Now, I respect and trust JKR more than, say, George Lucas, or another George who seems ot have lost control over the visual adaptation of his own book series. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my doubts. I’ll probably read the script book eventually, but not sure I’ll be paying full price.

    So, I do commend SC for staying away from the THG universe and really letting the readers make up their own minds about the ending in terms of the balance between bitter and sweet.

    1. i think Haymitch’s games could be fleshed out into a movie (but probably just ONE). I just don’t know how they could possibly make the ending satisfying enough. Haymitch is left alone, drinking away his pain, watching kids die for the next 23 years? I think they’d have to frame it as a flashback from MJ epilogue times for me (and the GA) to not be horribly depressed about it.

      1. Yeah, I don’t think you could stretch it into more than one. While you’d be getting more details, the basic conclusion is already known–he wins, he pays a price for his method, he becomes mentor, he eventually winds up the guy we know. Dunno where you’d end it to be satisfying…jump forward to the 74th Games, bringing you back to where you started and reminding you of what ultimately happens? I’ve had the same thought–that some past events would probably be better seen/learned about in flashback…Haymitch is one of my favorites, though, & I *would* love to get more of him one way or another.

  4. Yeah, the second Quarter Quell might have relatively good potential in that area.
    I’m looking forward to “Fantastic Beasts,” though I’m pretty sure it won’t be as good as HP…it IS sort of a spinoff-prequel, since it takes place earlier in the same dimension but is unrelated to the characters & plot of HP. I see the comparison to The Hobbit, as it does look as though it may skew a little younger. And even perhaps have a somewhat more generic storyline, though I’d like to be surprised. I want to have faith in JK that it’s not just a money grab (even though almost everything technically is, on the basic level), and that this will be another compelling series. That she’s already written up a very interesting history of magical folk in North America gives me hope.

    I’m MORE excited over The Cursed Child, since I’m a sequel sort of person myself–hating to just drop off and not get to see what happens to the characters later. What I liked about HP’s epilogue was the amount of detail. However, to call it a bit cheesy and trite doesn’t seem unfair, since it is basically “Everyone married each other and sent their kids off to Hogwarts together and lived happily ever after.” So yes, maybe she’s decided to show that “all was well”…only for a time, and poor Harry’s got yet more darkness to contend with now.

    SC, on the other hand, went in the opposite direction and ended very, very simply, with little detail. (Did she hear the criticism of JK’s ending and want to avoid accusations of wrapping up too “neatly?”) I mean, you go from full names of various offspring in one book, to not even learning the first names of the main characters’ children in the other. ;p Of course, THG *had* to end with either a bittersweet mood, or one of complete bitterness. One hopes (unless one is a particularly sadistic fan) that the characters’ futures become generally sweeter over time, & as much as I want to see more of them, I’m uncertain as to future-set plot lines. Could you go from epic gladiator-tournament/civil-war action saga to more of a drama? ‘Specially since they don’t have ‘curses’ in quite the same way Harry does. Hmm.

    And as I’m sure I’ve also said, they’ll obviously want feature films…buuuut…expansion via other formats (such as a series? miniseries?) should perhaps not necessarily be ruled out?

    1. ITA that a Haymitch prequel would only be enough material for one movie – and that it would need to be done skillfully in order to be palatable, likely revealing that Haymitch does eventually recover from his experience partially, though it does take a really long time.

      Also, since most of the Victors really did NOT have a HEA after winning their games, certainly not the ones featured in the original series, the “it’d be depressing” issue would affect any attempt to dramatize those as well. And of course, any prequel that depicts someone winning their Games as a Good Thing To Be Celebrated, would really cheapen the whole message of the original series.

      As for the HP spinoffs; I actually used to be very active in HP fandom under a different name. And I recall that a lot of fans who had built up their own “fanons” and expectations as the series was first coming out, wound up ending their ride in a rather disappointed manner.

      When JKR first started making comments on the HP characters’ futures, such as “Hannah takes over the Leaky Cauldron and marries Neville” or “Percy marries this random girl named Audrey”, I remember a lot of fans lapped it up at first, but began to tire of the many reveals. Especially among the fanfic writers -the Fictionalley forums were really toxic at one point, a lot of the posters there saw it as JKR essentially asserting her Power to Determine Canon in a rather passive-aggressive way. Though I think most of that reaction was more about the fans than JKR herself.

      However, IMHO JKR really did go too far when she publicly mentioned her inner doubts about the Ron-Hermione ending. It just felt like watching sausage being made. If not for that, I’d probably feel more positive about the Cursed Child play.

      At least JKR didn’t actually publish an Official Encyclopedia, though she did hint she would in for the first couple years after the DH book came out, it seems she’s abandoned that plan for now.

      Stephenie Meyer did write an Official Guide, of course, but that was just the nail in the coffin for the Twilight franchise to me; I was never really a fan, but the Guide (which I didn’t buy, just skimmed in the store), almost made me LOL. The backstories she made up for her minor characters were really flat and cliche — most of the female vampires could have starred in Lifetime movies as humans, they pretty much all were victims of abuse.

      It also took away from the special nature of the Bella-Edward relationship by revealing that it’s actually pretty common for vampires to seek humans as mates.

      So, SC being rather vague in her Epilogue, and NOT expounding on it years later, really is a breath of fresh air for me.

      1. Agreed; any other Victor would bring the same issue, of how to make it satisfying enough as a standalone film. I’m sure people’d be pulling for the main character again, especially if s/he was likable, but it wouldn’t/shouldn’t have a truly triumphant ending–nor would it be the cliffhanger-leading-into-something-else that THG had. So I don’t really think that idea is the strongest possibility.

        Oh gosh, I was obsessed with HP from the period between GoF and OotP on (that was when I finally took all my family’s & friends’ persuasion to heart and started reading it. Or, really, the first movie provided the push I needed!) I’ll never forget all the intense discussions and speculation. And I can understand some people being disappointed after the seventh book was published, liking their own ideas better than what actually happened…because honestly, I had that experience with part of it. (The fans had worked out a “mystery” way ahead of time, I didn’t much care for the idea and hoped we’d get an interesting surprise, but it turned out we were right on the money. That concerned the character who’d initially drawn me in, so I recall being less thrilled by DH than I’d expected to be, and it took me a bit to come to terms with how it played out.) Anyway.

        I do respect JKR’s right to give us information as she sees fit. I know a lot of fans feel that some of the magic seems to be lost when you find things out via seemingly random Tweets or whatever, and I share that feeling a little bit. Personally, I was waiting for that encyclopedia that’s not materializing. Accepting the complete lack of news about it as an indication that it’s become unlikely, I just take what I can get. Now I’d still much prefer a neatly organized official website, at least, for all of this “extra” info…everything from “Dumbledore is gay” on…but, it’s obviously up to her. Maybe Mugglenet or some fan has actually cataloged it all as she’s released it. Or it’s been added to the Wiki entries.
        I don’t have a problem with Romione myself, but if she honestly did change her mind about them being a good or realistic match, perhaps we are likely to see some tension in their relationship.

        Haha, I’m not a Twilight fan (I read the series but only bothered with the first movie), so I didn’t even know about that guide–which sounds pretty terrible. I remember liking Alice and Carlisle and maybe one or two other people, but not really enough to get ‘into’ it. Ah, well!
        So yes, SC has been comparatively very quiet so far–which even I readily admit is far better than saying things that don’t ring true, things you might end up wanting to take back, etc. Think the only bit of additional info she’s given is the names Willow & Rye for the Toastbabes.

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