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Thursday, March 22, 2012

'Hunger Games' could beat biggest 'Twilight' debut

The Hunger Games could gross between 125 million and 150 million this weekend
Photo: Jennifer Lawrence stars in "The Hunger Games." Credit: Lionsgate.

Katniss Everdeen may be engaged in a savage battle in “The Hunger Games,” but there’s little doubt about the victor in a different arena: the box office.

Audience interest in the big-screen adaptation of the literary teen epic is so astronomical that it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how many ticket sales the movie will sell in its opening weekend. Pre-release audience surveys indicate that the picture could debut with anywhere from $125 million to $150 million.

In that case, the film would have the highest-grossing three-day weekend ever for a nonsequel, not adjusting for inflation. That record is held by Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” which grossed $116.1 million on its opening in March 2010.

VIDEO: "The Hunger Games" film review

“The Hunger Games,” which stars 21-year-old Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence ("Winter's Bone"), is based on the first novel in author Suzanne Collins’ bestselling young-adult trilogy. The film stars Lawrence as Katniss, a 16-year-old who must compete in a battle to the death among two dozen teenagers put on by an oppressive government.

It seems unlikely that “The Hunger Games” will have the biggest opening weekend ever, beating out the $169.2 million that the eighth and final “Harry Potter” film pulled in when it debuted last summer. But the movie does have a good shot at collecting more in its first weekend than either of the  "Twilight" films “New Moon” and “Breaking Dawn — Part 1,” whose debuts now rank as the fourth and fifth highest of all time.

Unlike “Twilight,” which appealed strongly to young women, “The Hunger Games” is resonating with all demographics, including males 25 and younger. Heading into the weekend, online ticketing vendor Fandango reported that nearly 2,500 showtimes were already sold out. The film has also received overwhelmingly positive critical reviews: On Thursday morning, it had a 89% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

PHOTOS: "The Hunger Games" premiere

Lionsgate, which is distributing the film, produced the movie for a little over $80 million after tax credits from North Carolina, where it was shot. The independent studio spent $45 million to market the movie domestically, sending the young cast on an eight-city national mall tour and holding premieres in LA, New York, London, Paris and Berlin.

The film is debuting in most foreign countries this weekend, though Lionsgate sold off the movie’s international distribution rights to various releasing outfits to mitigate its financial risk. As a result, Lionsgate has recouped more than half the film’s production budget, but if the movie is a big hit overseas, the studio will not reap as much of the benefits.

The Cost of Piracy

Hi Art,

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Dollie Todd

What has a labor union ever done for you (even if you never join one)?

Etch A Sketch gaffe gives toy a lift

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is on the defensive after one of his top aides likened Romney's likely journey to the general election to an Etch A Sketch, where "you can kind of shake it up and restart all over again." 

Mitt Romney's campaign is probably wishing at this point that political statements were as easy to erase as the gray doodles on an Etch A Sketch, but the toy's century-old manufacturer is enjoying the unexpected publicity. As the candidate's campaign went into damage control mode after a top advisor's remark yesterday, executives at Ohio Art Company were thrilled at the sudden surge of interest in the iconic toy.

"This is the first time I've seen Etch A Sketch go viral so quickly," said Martin Killgallon, senior vice president of marketing and product development.

The Killgallons — Martin's father Larry is the company's president — are a majority owner in Ohio Arts, and the family history with the company dates to 1955. Both father and son say it's still too early to tell if the Etch A Sketches being waved around at rallies by supporters of Romney's competitors will translate into a sales boom.

One buyer told the company this morning that it sold roughly double the number of average units yesterday, Larry Killgallon said, but spring is a historically slow time for toy sales.

He said he'd be happy if Etch A Sketch's moment in the election cycle spotlight gets people to pay a little more attention to politics. "We hope it gets people's awareness up so they go out and vote in November."

Even if the Romney campaign's gaffe doesn't lead to a sales spike, Martin Killgallon said Ohio Arts is more than just Etch A Sketch. Founded in 1908, the company's roots are in metal lithography and packaging, and the production of things like popcorn tins and shaving cream cans still account for around 40 percent of the company's sales.

The company has a handful of toy brands, but Etch A Sketch is the biggest seller — 150 million units sold since its debut in 1960 — as well as the most well-known. In recent years, the company has expanded on the classic Etch a Sketch with branded editions tied into the product's association with the "Toy Story" movies, a smaller "pocket" edition that is now the biggest seller in terms of units sold, and iPhone and iPad apps.

Larry Killgallon said Etch A Sketch is responsible for about 35 percent of Ohio Art's toy revenue. The company's second-biggest seller is a line of tiny plastic building blocks called Nanoblocks. "That brand is growing very rapidly through Toys 'R Us and specialty toy shops," he said.

Going low-tech may seem counter intuitive, but one industry analyst said there's still room for toys that don't involve a screen or batteries.

"While technology is certainly prevalent in our lives, and our children’s lives, it does not mean that tech-less toys cannot succeed," Anita Frazier, analyst at the NPD Group, said via email. Even though it's old-school, Frazier said Etch A Sketch "has a lot going for it. It’s simple and intuitive for kids to use [and] it has the nostalgia factor going for it with parents."

There's a silver lining for Mitt Romney with every Etch A Sketch his opponents purchase, though: A big seller is Toys 'R Us, which was bought out in 2005 by an investor consortium including Romney's own Bain Capital.

Source: MSNBC

Facebook users are likely to be very narcissistic. 'Touch' to have world wide premiere tonight. 'Hunger Games' music hot. Changes at 'The Office.'

From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for he latest industry news.
Shocking discovery. A new study shows that people who are constantly updating their Facebook status are likely to be very narcissistic. And I just thought that their lives were so exciting that they were doing a service by letting the rest of us know how great things are going for them. Conversely though, someone who tweets a lot -- say, a media reporter at a West Coast newspaper -- is not narcissistic but rather a kind and giving soul. Details on the study from the Guardian.

A true test of how powerful "The Hunger Games" is expected to be is that even its soundtrack is already doing big business on iTunes
 Photo: A scene from "The Hunger Games. Credit: Murray Close / Lionsgate

From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for he latest industry news.

Hungry for music. A true test of how powerful "The Hunger Games" is expected to be is that even its soundtrack is already doing big business on iTunes. Once considered a key component of any movie marketing effort, soundtracks lost their cool years ago. The Wall Street Journal looks at whether music from "The Hunger Games" can boost the soundtrack business.

The Daily Dose: All the off-season drama in the National Football League will make figuring out the television schedule for the 2012 season even more complicated. Among the headaches for the league will be figuring out how much national television exposure the fan favorite New Orleans Saints will get in the wake of Coach Sean Payton's suspension for the season because the team had issued bounties to take out rival players. Then there are the Indianapolis Colts, who are usually a national draw but may struggle with a rookie quarterback. One plus for the league is that media phenom Tim Tebow signed with the New York Jets, who already get lots of TV time. If he'd gone to a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL would have had to figure out how to get that squad in the national rotation along with more popular teams.

Sony shake-up. Kazuo Hirai, who will take over for Howard Stringer as chief executive of Sony Corp. in a few weeks, is expected to tap Michael Lynton as his top U.S. executive. Lynton, currently head of Sony's Hollywood operations, would add oversight over Sony's music and publishing units. Analysis of Lynton's ascent from the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and the New York Post, which first broke the story.

Time to shut this down? NBC's aging sitcom "The Office" already lost Steve Carell and now is poised to lose several other cast members as well as behind-the-scenes talent. Nonetheless, NBC is scrambling to keep "The Office" around for another year, and perhaps even launch a spinoff show featuring Rainn Wilson's character, Dwight Schrute. Though a case could be made that "The Office" is past its prime, struggling NBC still gets a decent (for it) 18-49 audience from the show. Details on how "The Office" might live on for another season from TV Guide and Deadline Hollywood.

Viacom's ratings woes spread. Cable programming giant Viacom Inc. has some new headaches. With the company already reeling from a ratings drop at its kids channel, Nickelodeon, its MTV and Comedy Central are now also seeing declines in their key demographics. More from the New York Post.

One world. Fox is making the unusual -- but not unprecedented -- move of premiering its new drama "Touch" around the world. Normally, shows premiere in the United States and then gradually pop up around the globe. Fox is going with a global scheduling approach to try to combat piracy as well as to boost advertising sales. More from Variety.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Kenneth Turan on "The Hunger Games." John Horn on what it took to get the movie "October Baby," which deals with the story of a woman whose birth mother tried to unsuccessfully abort her, to the big screen.

-- Joe Flint

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