Fans – and box-office bean-counters – are gearing up for the November 22 release of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The Lionsgate film, based on the second book in Suzanne Collins’s blockbuster young adult series, marks the return of the love triangle comprising Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), and Gale (Liam Hemsworth). Following their unprecedented triumph in the games, Katniss and Peeta are targeted by the Capitol and forced to compete once more, this time in the 25-year anniversary games known as the Quarter Quell. Additions to the cast include Philip Seymour Hoffman as head gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee, and Sam Claflin, who plays tribute Finnick Odair, an ally to Katniss and Peeta.
With a new director, Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend), taking over for Gary Ross, the second film will offer some stylistic changes. In an interview with MTV, Lawrence (no relation to Jennifer) discussed some of the notable differences between the first film in the saga and the second. For one, he pointed to a shift in point of view. While The Hunger Games allowed for a more meandering perspective, Catching Fire focuses on Katniss: “We’re not cutting around to family members and things,” he told MTV. “We’re much more with Katniss this time because part of the mystery of the arena and the mystery of what’s happening to her is very important, and for that we need to stay with her.... Once we’re in the arena, we break away very, very few times.”
The new film’s mise-en-scène will also differ dramatically from that of the first. The arena is set in a tropical jungle environment with a towering canopy; tributes enter via elevators that rise into an ocean pool, with a volcanic-rock island at its center. As Lawrence explained to MTV, “We actually looked at a couple of different places that had jungles,” but it was difficult to find the right location. “Sometimes the plant life and everything is sort of small or really dense. In Hawaii, you get a very tall canopy, and you get beautiful banyan trees and really lush green forests, and it also has a large variety, so that it doesn’t all become homogeneous.” The jungle and beach scenes were filmed in Hawaii and the water scenes were shot in Atlanta against a digital backdrop.
With the success of the previous film and the continued fan fervor over the series, expectations are high for the film’s box-office success. The first film was released on March 23, 2012 and grossed $152.5 million over its opening weekend. The worldwide total gross for The Hunger Games was $691 million. Analyst Alan Gould of Evercore predicted in Variety that Catching Fire will gross $950 million worldwide: $375 million in the U.S. and $575 million globally.
Off screen and on the page, the reach of the Hunger Games series remains formidable. Scholastic is greeting the forthcoming cinematic release with a tie-in edition of the novel featuring cover art from the film, an illustrated movie companion, as well as a boxed set containing paperback editions of the entire series. According to Scholastic, there are more than 65 million copies of the original three books in the Hunger Games trilogy in print and digital formats in the U.S.: more than 28 million copies of The Hunger Games, more than 19 million copies of Catching Fire, and more than 18 million copies of Mockingjay. Scholastic’s Hunger Games Facebook page has upwards of 4.8 million fans.
Leading up to the Los Angeles premiere of Catching Fire on November 18, Lionsgate is once again hosting a Fan Camp Weekend that will run from November 16–18. The studio has also launched an elaborate marketing campaign that plays up the rampant materialism of Panem. In addition to posters, trailers, and billboards, the studio created a series of stylized character portraits as well as an online fashion magazine that sends up the outrageous fashion that is a mainstay of Capitol culture. In an e-mail statement, Suzanne Collins told Variety about her views on the campaign: “It’s appropriately disturbing and thought-provoking how the campaign promotes Catching Fire while simultaneously promoting the Capitol’s punitive forms of entertainment,” she said. “The stunning image of Katniss in her wedding dress that we use to sell tickets is just the kind of thing the Capitol would use to rev up its audience for the Quarter Quell. That dualistic approach is very much in keeping with the books.”