By: Kathryn Saulinas, Staff Writer
As “The Hunger Games” spends its fourth consecutive week as the number one movie in America, it’s safe to say that this film adaptation of the bestselling book penned by Suzanne Collins is the most talked about movie of the year.
“The Hunger Games”’ secret to success is simple – when you take an incredibly popular book series, add a few teenage heartthrobs, and mix in a seasoned director, the result will always have millions of people flocking to midnight premiers and selling out every show time in the country.
With Collins’ New York Times’ Best Seller adapted for the screen, all Lionsgate needed was a powerhouse actress to portray Katniss, a young girl forced into an arena to fight other kids to the death, young and handsome actors to play her love interests, and a director who understood the scope of the project.
And they found all those ingredients in actors Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth and veteran director Gary Ross, whose previous work includes “Seabiscuit” and “Pleasantville.”
But what happens when Ross, a key ingredient in that recipe, announces that he will not return to direct the sequel to his mega-hit?
While the initial rumors claimed that Ross dropped out of directing “Catching Fire” because he wasn’t happy with his paycheck, it has since been made public that this is not the case.
Lawrence is also slated to star in the upcoming sequel to “X Men: First Class.” Fox, the production house behind “X Men,” is pushing for Lawrence to begin filming around January 2013.
Unwilling to wait until Lawrence is free, Lionsgate insists that filming for “Catching Fire” be completed by the end of 2012, which leaves only eight months for the movie to be written and shot. Ross, uncomfortable with such a short time frame, stepped down from his writing and directing duties.
Essentially, the studio would rather accommodate their star actress than their director.
So naturally, this brings up a debate about who is more important to the survival of a franchise.
Franchises like “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” have all survived changes in directors over the years and the fans never seemed too bothered by it. But even the smallest rumor of Robert Pattinson or Emma Watson not returning to their famed characters sends the public into a frenzy.
Television shows demand that multiple directors be at the helm because of the quick turnaround for air dates. But as long as the talent on screen remained the same and the visions of those behind the cameras stayed in the same ballpark, fans and critics have all been appeased.
But what concerns a lot of the entertainment industry today more than personnel changes is the willingness to forgo quality in order to produce films more quickly. Lionsgate refuses to wait more than a year to begin filming the next movie in “The Hunger Games” trilogy. But why? They already have the rights to the adaptation – it’s not going anywhere.
But the fans are.
Studios want to cash in on the publicity and success of a first film in order to have a popular second film. It’s been four weeks since it premiered and there are still “Hunger Games” related topics in the entertainment headlines almost daily. Executives want to keep the ball rolling while it’s still hot and relevant.
Uniquely, the Warner Brothers picked up the “Harry Potter” films before J.K. Rowling had even come close to finishing the seven book series. Fans not only had films to look forward to but also books whose release dates added publicity for the film franchise.
However, Katniss’ story is complete. Readers have finished the trilogy and the only thing they’re waiting for is to see their beloved characters come to life again on screen.
But as a society, we’re flighty. “Out of sight, out of mind,” is the main mantra when it comes to entertainment. And while studios are busy adapting Collins’ work for the big screen, fans are becoming distracted by the next big thing.
So while big time movie execs push for earlier filming and release dates, they’re almost forced to value quantity over quality to cater to our erratic and unfaithful behavior as consumers.
While it’s doubtful that our impatience will ever change, it certainly explains why so few movies that are part of a larger franchise are mentioned in the same sentence as the Academy Awards.