How could 'Hunger Games' continue after the movies? Ask Harry Potter
The release of Mockingjay—Part 1 this weekend signals the beginning of the end for The Hunger Games quadrilogy, based on Suzanne Collins’s books—though the franchise won’t stop when the film series does, at least if Lionsgate has anything to say about it. And thankfully for the studio, there’s already a precedent for this type of world-expansion—set mostly by one very important boy wizard.
Harry Potter is the gold standard for maintaining a fervid fan base after a film series (based on an incredibly popular book series) ends. The Hunger Games has already taken more than a few cues from its predecessor; after all, Mockingjay is only being split into two parts thanks to the precedent set by Harry‘s Deathly Hallows strategy. But Potter has also mastered the life-after-movie game. (It’s worth mentioning that Harry Potter owes something to Star Wars when it comes to milking franchise potential for all it’s worth—but unlike Potter or Games, that franchise wasn’t based on previously-established source material.)
How else can Katniss take a leaf out of Harry’s spellbook? This is how you keep a fanbase alive—Harry Potter style.
Step One: Get thee a theme park
Going beyond a Star Wars attraction at Disneyland, Potter got a land all to itself at Universal Studios Orlando in 2010, even before all of the movies had been released. The attraction has since expanded with the Hogwarts Express now connecting Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, each located in a different Universal park. A Wizarding World of Harry Potter has also opened in Japan, and one is on its way to Hollywood.
Step Two: Create a thriving online community
Yes, interactive site Pottermore had a rough launch—though it was announced in 2011, it wasn’t actually available to the public until the following year, six months after it was originally scheduled to open. Since then, though, it’s become an exciting outlet for new material from J.K. Rowling. The latest contribution: A Dolores Umbridge story, among other tidbits tied to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Step Three: Create a spin-off
The best way to keep a franchise that’s over alive? Make a new franchise. That’s just what Warner Bros is doing with Harry Potter, as the studio announced in September 2013. Warner has already slotted a trilogy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them films. The movies will follow Newt Scamander, the author of the Hogwarts textbook from which the new franchise gets its title.
Step Four: Take it to the stage
Rowling announced in December 2013 she is working on a stage play about Harry’s early years.
And voila! Harry Potter feels as relevant as ever—much more so than its sister in YA fandom, the Twilight saga. After Breaking Dawn: Part 2‘s premiere in 2012, Stephenie Meyer’s series largely seemed to fade from the cultural conversation. That could change next year: Lionsgate recently announced that it’s financing five short Twilight films for Facebook in 2015. But while that project has a cool bent—all the films will be directed by women, who will themselves be chosen by an all-female panel—it also feels removed from the original franchise. Most importantly, these films will not star the series’ original cast.
Though the studio didn’t try this same trick with Twilight, Lionsgate has made it clear that it has Potter-scale ambitions for The Hunger Games. That said, The Hunger Games has a problem Harry Potter never had. Even when Voldemort was running rampant, Harry Potter‘s world seemed like a pretty cool place—filled with magic, and wonder, and delightfully whimsical fun. But Panem never has—nor is it really supposed to be attractive, despite all of the Capitol’s frivolity. It’s weird to imagine a Hunger Games theme park, even though Lionsgate has indicated that one is in the works; it’s also strange to picture being in a theater, watching young actors “murder” each other for sport, even though a “theatrical experience” based on the films apparently will debut in 2016. (I’ve written about this problem before.) The franchise’s penultimate film, Mockingjay—Part 1, is more proof of that. The movie is an almost relentlessly dark portrait of a world consumed by war, one that takes a hard look at how propaganda is used by each side. Judging by Collins’s book, Part 2 won’t lighten up.
That said: While a theme park might strike some (read: me) as a distasteful cash grab that seems not to get the meaning of Collins’s stories, I’m willing to hold out for a stage show, which could viscerally capture the series’s presentational aspects and its horror. The team behind the production also has credits that prove a familiarity with taking on serious material, including works about Anne Frank and Soldier of Orange which deals with the Dutch resistance during WWII.
This weekend’s box office will likely prove, however, that if you slap the Hunger Games name on something, people will come. The trick is keeping that enthusiasm high even after Mockingjay flies for the last time next year. There’s also something to be said for just letting a beloved property be—though really, that’s about as likely as President Snow voluntarily stepping down.
The Hunger Games