LA Times takes a look at Lionsgate’s risky marketing campaign for The Hunger Games

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We’ve all been impressed by The Hunger Games marketing campaign, which has included viral and fashion sites, challenges, puzzles, contests and much more beside the classical trailers and TV spots. Well, LA Times has an article discussing exactly this: The originality of Lionsgate’s $45-million campaign for The Hunger Games and the risks they took when deciding they wouldn’t show any material from the actual games while promoting the movie.

As anticipation for the opening of “The Hunger Games” reaches a fever pitch, a central element is absent from every trailer, television ad and online video: the games themselves.

It’s impossible to imagine a commercial for a “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie that doesn’t show a single buccaneer or a “Transformers” trailer without any robots. In an unusual and risky strategy, Lionsgate studio has crafted a $45-million marketing campaign that shows none of the titular combat, in which teenagers fight to the death while their futuristic society watches on TV.

The stakes for the Santa Monica company could hardly be higher with next Friday’s opening.

“The Hunger Games” kicks off a planned quartet of films that analysts estimate could generate between $800 million and $2 billion of profit for Lionsgate. Failure could cause the company’s stock price — which has nearly doubled over the last six months partly because of expectations for the movies — to plummet.

“If you can get people excited while insinuating that you haven’t even shown them the good stuff yet, it’s an incredibly powerful notion,” said Jim Gallagher, a consultant who formerly ran marketing for Walt Disney Studios. “Most films can’t afford to play so coy.”

The filmmakers themselves faced a careful balancing act in loyally adapting the books while still earning the PG-13 rating needed to draw a broad audience and turn a profit on a movie that cost nearly $100 million to make (tax credits brought the total closer to $80 million).

“It was important to us to make a faithful adaptation that doesn’t soft-pedal the subject matter but is respectful of our audiences,” producer Nina Jacobson said. “We wanted to make sure that our movie is not guilty of the crimes of the Capitol,” she added, referring to the elites in the books who organize the Hunger Games to entertain an oppressed populace.

Two of the people present in marketing meetings said Lionsgate did have a backup plan: If the movie was not generating sufficient interest, new ads would have been cut to show more of the gladiatorial action. (A spokesman for the studio declined to make Palen available for an interview.)

“It’s a little bit like what they used to do with Godzilla movies back in the day,” consultant Gallagher said. “You never get a clear look at him until you bought a ticket.”

You can read the full article here.

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