The dystopia of Panem, the setting of The Hunger Games, compelled tributes between the ages of 12 and 18 to compete in yearly fights to the death. Under President Snow's (Donald Sutherland) totalitarian watch, two contestants from each of the nation's 12 districts would face off in a live broadcast for the rich residents of the Capitol. The rationale? To maintain harmony among the districts and avoid another civil war.
The franchise centers on District 12 tribute Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who volunteers to participate in the games in lieu of her younger sister and ultimately sparks an uprising. The Hunger Games, based on the best-selling book by Suzanne Collins, surpassed the opening-weekend sums for the first Harry Potter and Twilight films, raking in a whopping $152 million domestically (per Box Office Mojo) when it debuted in March 2012. Besides lead actress Lawrence and the amazingly talented Sutherland, The Hunger Games also stars a huge cast of epic talent.
Most notably, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, and Stanley Tucci, make appearances in the film series. Philip Seymour Hoffman sadly passed away before the completion of his scenes in the later films, leading to onscreen changes and rewrites. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 are the next three movies produced by the filmmakers based on the continued books by Collins.
The rest of the franchise did relatively well, and it became one of the powerhouses of the YA genre. Responses to the first film were a bit varied, and it did fall under some criticism, mostly for diverting from the books. The first film missed the novel's mark on Katniss' hunting instinct saying, 'the novel conveyed a heady sense of blood-scent...a lifetime of illegal hunting paying off in survival skills,' and that 'while present, this critical element is skimmed over onscreen,' according to The Hollywood Reporter.
On the other hand, Rolling Stone praised the film saying it 'radiates a hot, jumpy energy that's irresistible' and that 'it has epic spectacle, yearning romance, [and] suspense that won't quit.' Here's why the odds were ever in The Hunger Games' favor. The Franchises That Tried, But Failed Lionsgate Films As studios scrambled to discover the next YA behemoth, the success of the first Hunger Games movie in 2012 spurred a wave of comparable projects. Ender's Game, The Maze Runner, The Giver, The Host, Beautiful Creatures, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and Divergent were just a few of the many teen-focused sci-fi/fantasy movies that poured into theaters in 2013 and 2014.
The Wrap reported in 2015 that Craig Dehmel, Fox's former president of international distribution, said, 'For years, everyone tried to have the next Harry Potter and no one managed to do so, but that didn't stop companies from trying.' Many of these movies did not do that badly at the box office, but they just didn't have the power to touch The Hunger Games' success. Filmmakers thought they had the perfect formula for YA films: a dystopian landscape, turmoil from the government/other leaders, a love-triangle fit for the ages, and a nicely wrapped-up storyline, but this was not all that was needed. The films had to have more to make them unique and many failed to connect with their target audiences.
By 2016, we really were seeing the death of young-adult dystopian movies! No film series or franchise has since been able to touch the success of Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games. Because it was the last to release a movie in this category, The Hunger Games is truly the last great YA film franchise in existence. Lionsgate In the late-2000s, when these YA films were being released, the world was in a much different place.
Society was struggling in ways it hadn't before, and being a teenager was completely different than in past generations. When reflecting on the franchise's success, director of The Hunger Games Gary Ross stated in an interview that from 'climate change to authoritarianism, their generation feels a real sense of dread and jeopardy,' going on to emphasize, 'I think one reason this franchise was so successful is that this generation feels they are fighting for their survival all the time.' The Hunger Games has established itself as one of the leading YA series, and it doesn't seem to be giving up that title anytime soon. The upcoming prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, also by Suzanne Collins, which centered on the primary adversary of the first series, President Snow, was a 2020 addition to the book series.
Hoping to score big on the supremacy of the original series, that prequel is now being made into a film too. Actors Viola Davis, Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Hunter Schafer, and Peter Dinklage have been attached to the project. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is slated to release on November 17, 2023, according to a statement made at CinemaCon in April 2022, despite the fact that the movie is still in development.