Is The Hunger Games going to be a blockbuster hit? The odds are ever in its favor. According to early estimates, the film, about a dystopian future in which the government forces teens to murder each other on a disturbingly cruel reality TV show, can expect an opening weekend gross in excess of $100 million when it hits theaters on March 23. But not all the news is as rosy as Effie's cotton candy hair. Early tracking also suggests that the film, an adaptation of the first installment of Suzanne Collins' smash trilogy, in which gutsy teen heroine Katniss Everdeen is caught in a messy love triangle while fighting for her survival, isn't drumming up interest from young men. In fact, the Twilight-like buzz is even turning off male fans of the book. Can the studio do anything to woo boys to the theater? Here, a guide:
Should the movie appeal to boys?
You'd think it would. The novel centers on a strong-willed 16-year-old girl forced to violently fight other teens to the death in a disturbing nationally televised survival competition. Collins' compelling depiction of a dystopian future, "quick pace, strong character, and blood sport" helped the book attract a "robust male readership," says Rachel Dodes and John Jurgensen at The Wall Street Journal. Yeah, this is a movie in which a teenager is "ripped apart by mutated 'mutts' bearing the features of deceased characters," says Jen Doll at The Atlantic Wire. "Maybe we should asking if girls will go to this movie."
But boys aren't going to see the movie?
Early tracking numbers suggest an overwhelming gender gap. A recent report showed that a "staggering" 73 percent of young women expressed definite interest in seeing the flick, compared to just 48 percent of young men.
Comparisons to Twilight are turning off young men, even those who were fans of the books, says Dodes and Jurgensen. Already, the overzealous, obsessive tween girl fandom that defined the Twilight phenomenon is infiltrating the Hunger Games universe, spurred on by the rambunctious crowds at a recent mall tour featuring the film's cast members. "Please I beg you don't turn this into another Twilight," one YouTube commenter posted on The Hunger Games trailer. "It will be very hard, as a male fan, to walk into a theater without getting embarrassed if there are 13-year-old girls yelling 'Team Peeta!' or 'Team Gale!'" Indeed, Twilight and The Hunger Games couldn't be more different, says Tina Jordan at Entertainment Weekly. In Twilight, the question is, "Which one will she marry?" In The Hunger Games, it's, "Will she live until the end of the book?"
Will anything change boys' minds?
To counteract the Twilight comparisons, the Hunger Games' marketing team has "taken away the love story and focused on the hero," says market researcher Vincent Bruzzese. Recent trailers invoke the film's more violent themes, showing Katniss volunteering to compete in the deadly games, and shooting an arrow at a human-shaped target. The studio also aired a highly-touted, well-reviewed Super Bowl spot, and will show the movie on 300 IMAX screens. "IMAX core audiences are typically fanboy as opposed to fangirl," says IMAX Chief Executive Richard Gelfond.
Does it matter?
"It'd be encouraging to see a movie with a dominant female lead transcend the demographic corrals studio analysts have split us all into," says Doug Barry at Jezebel, but the film is going to be a blockbuster hit either way. It's already sold more advanced tickets than any film in Fandango's 12-year history, and 47 opening-night IMAX showings are sold out. "Rarely does a film generate the sort of numbers that Hunger Games is enjoying," says Pamela McClintock at The Hollywood Reporter. So really, things aren't that bleak. Remember, interest in The Hunger Games among males is nearly three times higher than it was for that sparkly vampire romance.