The Hunger Games, a movie based on the first book in a best-selling trilogy of Young Adult novels is currently raking in the bucks at the box office. By the time this blog hits the net, it'll probably have banked $200 million in North American ticket sales, and even more big money overseas.
Now some are posting articles like this one about lessons Hollywood should learn from this experience, and while they make valid points, I think they miss some important points.
1. STREAMLINE THE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS:
Producer Nina Jacobson got the rights from author Suzanne Collins very quickly, and began working with Lionsgate within a year of its publication. One of the reasons it took three years to develop the picture was mostly because they were waiting for the rest of the trilogy to finish and see how well they held onto their audience.
Even without the wait for the rest of the trilogy, three years from buying the rights to getting it on the screen is really fast by modern studio standards. It is not uncommon for a property to spend ten years or more in development. This relatively speedy process shows that producer Nina Jacobson knew what she wanted from the story, and stuck with it.
2. KEEP BUDGETS UNDER CONTROL:
Right now The Hunger Games is coming close to breaking even before its first week in theaters is even done. It had a production budget of $78 million and probably a further $50-$70 million in P&A.
Now that is a lot of money to mere mortals like you and I, but by Hollywood standards it's a different story. We're talking about a science fiction movie with a large cast of characters, with lots of action and special effects. For that sort of film any budget under $150 million is considered "small." From what people are saying, it looks like every dollar is on the screen.
3. ONLY USE CGI WHEN ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY:
While I haven't seen the movie yet, the one thing I get from critics is that they seem impressed by how "natural" it looks.
The movie isn't just a non-stop bombardment of imagery that is impossible in the real world which passes for film-making at a certain level these days.
Since the filmmakers don't appear to be using CGI as a shortcut to everything in this movie, the dangers facing the characters have real emotional weight to the audience.
When computer imagery is overused a sense of unreality infects the film and the attitude of the audience. They look at the hero facing some danger and go "ho hum the hero's going to do some impossible trick and save the day." But use physical effects, real stunt performers, with only a dusting of CGI to hide the strings and wires, and suddenly the audience can buy into the danger.
Those are some lessons that Hollywood can learn, but probably won't.