The Hunger Games: The new teen franchise with Twilight in its sights

 

The trailer concludes with the ominous tagline: "The world will be watching." Get ready for The Hunger Games, the new Hollywood blockbuster franchise which promises to trounce Twilight and replace Harry Potter in the box-office charts. Anticipation is mounting among millions of teenage fans ahead of the 23 March opening of the film, based on Suzanne Collins's bestselling novels. The trilogy, which has sold 30 million copies, is set in a post-apocalyptic world where children are chosen by the government to fight each other to the death in gladiatorial battles.

The arrival of a new fantasy franchise, tipped to exceed the $2.25bn taken by the Twilight vampire romances, has excited even Wall Street. Credit-ratings agency Standard & Poor's issued a rare upgrade for the Lionsgate film company, citing the profits that The Hunger Games is expected to generate.

Like Harry Potter, the film must meet the demands of a passionate and protective fan base. The first trailer attracted eight million YouTube views in one day.

Jennifer Lawrence, 21, Oscar-nominated for her role in Winter's Bone, admits she was scared when the producers chose her over Hailee Steinfeld (of True Grit) to take the lead role of the feisty, bow-and-arrow-shooting Katniss Everdeen. She burst her spleen and was taken to hospital during rehearsals for the film's action scenes, which required 1,200 CGI shots.

Gary Ross was chosen over Sam Mendes to direct the film, which cost $80m, a relatively low budget for a blockbuster – but a similar sum is reserved for a blanket before its release.

Zygi Kamasa, chief executive of Lionsgate UK, told The Independent: "The Hunger Games book sales are on a par with Twilight and we are hoping to emulate that commercial success. The fans are rabid. But the Games crosses over more equally between girls and boys because there are more action scenes and they're popular with adults too."

The films offer more than escapist fantasy, Mr Kamasa promised. "They make a political statement. The citizens are slaves who are forced to take part in games watched obsessively on television. Its about the dangers of reality television when taken too far."

Although the teenage warriors fight each other to death, Mr Kamasa said the films will carry an "anti-violence message". He did not believe that the combat scenes would result in an age rating that excluded younger teenagers. Ms Collins, from Connecticut, adapted her novel for the first film and stands to make millions from her stake.

Head to head: The rivals

The Hunger Games

Creator Connecticut children's television writer Suzanne Collins.

Concept Pugilistic love triangle with battling Katniss falling for Peeta but unaware that best friend Gale is in love with her.

Teen Idols Jennifer Lawrence "truly captured" the character of Katniss, Collins said. Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth also set for stardom.

Money 23.5 million books sold in North America alone with global sales running at four million a month.

Twilight

Creator Connecticut-born Stephenie Meyer.

Concept Supernatural love triangle with Bella caught between vampire Edward and werewolf Jacob.

Teen Idols Brit actor Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, above, catapulted to big time.

Money 116 million books sold. Four films grossed $2.25bn with one to go.

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