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Category: Hunger Games

'The Hunger Games' used as bait by hackers

Hunger Games

The "Hunger Games" heroine Katniss is apparently catnip for hackers.

Cyber criminals have been dangling the lure of of free online copies of the blockbuster film to trick young fans into downloading malicious software onto their computers.

In the two weeks preceding the movie's March 23 premiere, experts identified some 37 instances of offers for illegal movie downloads that were "poisoned."

"It's not actually the 'Hunger Games' footage, it pretends to be that," said Marian Merritt,
internet safety advocate for Norton, industry giant Symantec's brand of anti-virus software. "It's posted merely for the purpose of tricking fans."

Merritt said cyber criminals often use big cultural events -- such as the royal wedding or the release of the "Twilight" movies -- to dupe the unwitting into downloading a bit of malicious software onto their computers.

Such programs allow hackers to gain access to the information stored on that computer, infect other computers on the home network and beyond, Merritt said, or use the computer as a "bot" (short for robot) to launch a variety of attacks, such as sending out spam or being part of a coordinated "denial-of-service” attack.

"The 'Hunger Games' in part is of appeal to the youngest kids," Merritt said. "We find that kids are particularly vulnerable to this kind of threat, the poisoned search result threat."

Merritt urges parents to talk to their kids about steering clear of such online promises of sensational content, such as leaked videos. Norton and other companies, of course, make software that's designed to prevent this problem. A free version of Norton Safe Web Lite can be found here.

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Photo: Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss Everdeen in a scene from "The Hunger Games." Credit:  Murray Close / Lionsgate 

'Battle Royale' DVD gets boost from 'The Hunger Games'

BattleRoyale
The massive launch of "The Hunger Games" is helping out a movie that many fans see as its cultural predecessor, if not inspiration.

"Battle Royale," a Japanese movie released in 2000 based on a novel of the same name by author Koushun Takami, premiered on DVD in the United States and Canada this week by Anchor Bay Entertainment, a small home entertainment company owned by Starz Media.

Like "The Hunger Games," "Battle Royale" features teenagers forced by an oppressive government to fight to the death. The Japanese movie is more violent, however, which has inspired some controversy.

Kevin Kasha, Anchor Bay executive vice president of acquisitions, said he has been a fan of the film for more than a decade and had considered buying it when he worked in the home entertainment units of Miramax Films and New Line Cinema.

But political considerations at the time made that difficult, though Anchor Bay has a thriving horror business into which "Battle Royale" could have easily fit.

He acquired domestic rights to the film from Japanese studio Toei Co. in 2010 but decided to wait until "The Hunger Games" came to theaters before releasing the Japanese film.

The four-disc complete collection has been marketed to fans who already know "Battle Royale" and may have seen bootleg copies. Single-disc DVDs and Blu-ray discs that are sold in Wal-mart and other stores feature an image, featuring two teens holding a sword and scythe, that was designed to echo early promotional art for "The Hunger Games," according to Kevin Carney, Anchor Bay executive director of marketing.

"There's a core fan base that has been looking for this movie, and that's who we're targeting with the boxed set," Kasha said. "But with 'Hunger Games' coming out, there's also a whole new market full of people who probably didn't know 'Battle Royale' existed."

Kasha declined to discuss sales figures, but the Blu-ray complete collection is currently No. 38 on Amazon.com's movies and TV sales chart.

And while Anchor Bay bought "Battle Royale" for DVD and digital platforms, it has also found a niche in theaters. The movie has played at midnight screenings in 19 theaters so far, with eight more scheduled in  coming months.

"We think of that more as promotion for the DVD," Carney said. "But given the fact that there are so many, I'll take every dollar."

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Photo: A scene from "Battle Royale." Credit: Anchor Bay Entertainment

'Hunger Games' to deliver more than $300 million in profit to Lions Gate

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The blockbuster opening weekend of "The Hunger Games" — which debuted with an estimated $155 million — will ultimately lead to more than $300 million in profit for independent studio Lionsgate, analysts predicted Sunday.

And with three sequels to come, the franchise as a whole is expected to deliver $1.5 billion or more to the Santa Monica company's bottom line.

That's a significant success for Lionsgate, which has posted net losses in its last four fiscal years and struggled to up its game in film production. While it has scored with a variety of genre and prestige pictures like "Saw" and "Precious" and has a growing television division, the studio last year took losing bets on several high-profile flops, including "Conan the Barbarian" and the Taylor Lautner action-thriller "Abduction."

Media analyst Monica Dicenso of JP Morgan predicted that the first "Hunger Games" film will produce $310 million in profit and the series as a whole will generate $1.5 billion. James Marsh of Piper Jaffray said the numbers could be even higher, with more than $400 million from the first movie and $2-billion-plus for the entire series.

This weekend's release, which cost a little more than $80 million to make (after a tax break) and $45 million more to market, needed to reach about $100 million in domestic box office receipts to break even, according to a person familiar with the picture’s economics who was not authorized to speak publicly. The picture reached that milestone on Saturday.

The ultimate success of the franchise will depend largely on how the movie performs on DVD when it's no longer in theaters as well as the sales of licensed products.

Lionsgate vice chairman Michael Burns noted Sunday that he had just received an email informing him that "Hunger Games" T-shirts were already selling out in many Hot Topic chain stores.

"The panacea in the movie business is to find franchises," he said when asked to reflect on the meaning of "The Hunger Games" to the studio, which he and chief executive Jon Feltheimer have run since 2000.

"The idea that we can create some predictability around the most unpredictable part of our business is fantastic," he added.

There are several factors in Lions Gate's favor that should help the company generate even higher profits from the sequels than the first film. The movie's international opening, for instance, was solid but not spectacular, particularly outside of the English-speaking world, where author Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games" novels are not as well known.

Just as the popular"Twilight" sequels did much better overseas than the original, the same might hold true for Lionsgate's new franchise.

In addition, with the success of the first film, Lionsgate will be in a position to demand more favorable terms from foreign distributors for the sequels. The independent studio does not handle the release of its movies outside of the U.S. and Great Britain.

One challenge the company faces, however, is the pending departure of motion picture group president Joe Drake. While Feltheimer gave the movie the greenlight, it was Drake and his team who oversaw the development, production and marketing.

Drake and several of his key executives are being replaced by the team from "Twilight" studio Summit Entertainment, which Lionsgate acquired in January.

Lions Gate stock has more than doubled in value since September in part because of anticipation for "The Hunger Games" (as well as the exit of dissident shareholder Carl Icahn). The shares closed at $14.53 on Friday. But with the movie outperforming even the most optimistic expectations this weekend, they could rise again Monday.

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Photo: Lions Gate vice chairman Michael Burns and actress Jennifer Lawrence at the premiere of "The Hunger Games." Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images.

'Hunger Games' grosses $68 million Friday, earns 'A' CinemaScore

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"The Hunger Games" scored the fifth-highest opening day of all time at the box office and earned a perfect score from moviegoers.

The adaptation of the best-selling book about teens battling to the death grossed $68.25 million on Friday, according to the film's distributor, Lionsgate. That puts it behind the last three "Twilight" movies and the final "Harry Potter" installment on the list of best single-day ticket sales, but ahead of such mega-hits as "The Dark Knight," "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and "Spider-Man 3."

Just as importantly for Lionsgate, the film earned an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Among audiences under 18, it received a rarely rewarded A+. That means word-of-mouth should be very strong and moviegoers who weren't among the hard-core fans who rushed out opening day are more likely to turn out in the coming days.

With such a strong debut, "The Hunger Games" is now all but assured to gross at least $140 million for the full three-day weekend, with $150 million very possible.

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Photo: A worker installs a "Hunger Games" marquee on the billboard at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York. Credit: Don Emmert / Getty Images.

'Hunger Games' collects nearly $20 million from late-night shows

'Hunger Games' fans at midnight show. Click for cast photos."The Hunger Games" cleaned up during its first night in theaters, taking in $19.75 million from late-night shows after 12 a.m. on Friday.

Lionsgate's hotly anticipated adaptation of the bestselling book by Suzanne Collins ranks as the seventh highest ever total gross from "midnight screenings" (Hollywood's term for shows that start anytime from 12 a.m. on a film's opening day until the sun rises).

The six films ranked higher were the three most recent installments in the "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" series.

VIDEO: 'The Hunger Games' review

Big turnouts for late-night shows are an indication of intense excitement among fans, who would rather stay up until dawn than wait a minute longer than necessary to see a film. And while they don't guarantee that a movie will ultimately prove popular among broad audiences, a big midnight debut is an indicator that a picture will have a huge opening weekend.

Every other film that has posted more than $16.6 million in midnight shows on a Friday (the cut-off point for the top 10) has gone to take in well over $100 million on its opening weekend. "The Hunger Games" appears poised to do the same, with a debut as high as $150 million still possible.

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Photo: Two fans at the opening night of "The Hunger Games" at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Valerie Macon / Getty Images.

Lionsgate spending $45 million to market 'The Hunger Games'

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Lionsgate is launching its biggest ever marketing campaign for "The Hunger Games," but still not outspending Hollywood's major studios.

To promote its biggest budget production yet, the Santa Monica-based studio is spending about $45 million to advertise the picture in the U.S., according to people familiar with the matter but not authorized to speak publicly.

Lionsgate typically devotes less than $30 million to selling its nationwide releases, which are often targeted genre films such as "Saw" and Tyler Perry's comedies, though it did spend $40 million to market the 2010 hit "The Expendables."

Hollywood's major studios can spend as much as $70 million to $80 million marketing their most expensive event movies domestically.

Lionsgate has the advantage, of course, of huge built-in awareness for "The Hunger Games." The trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins on which the film is based have already sold 23.5 million copies worldwide.

As a result, the studio has not only been able to afford a more cost-effective advertising campaign, but is able to get away with not showing any footage in commercials and trailers from the actual hunger games, in which teenagers hunt each other to the death in front of a televised audience.

Lionsgate's marketing strategy appears to be working spectacularly well. Pre-release surveys suggest that "The Hunger Games" will have an opening weekend of more than $100 million when it debuts across the country on March 23.

For more, see the story in today's Times on on Lionsgate's marketing campaign for "The Hunger Games."

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Photo: Josh Hutcherson, left, Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth at the premiere of "The Hunger Games." Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images.

'Hunger Games' could open at $100 million, surveys suggest

"The Hunger Games"
"The Hunger Games" is poised to slaughter the box office competition with an opening that could surpass $100 million.

On Thursday, Lionsgate's adaptation of the best-selling book came onto "tracking," the survey data used by Hollywood executives to measure pre-release interest, and the numbers are massive. People who have seen the numbers but were not authorized to discuss them publicly said the film, which debuts March 23, could have a domestic opening weekend of close to, and possibly more than, $100 million.

More consumers rate "The Hunger Games" as their first choice film to see than any movie coming out in the next four weeks. Typically, the movies that get the highest "first choice" ratings are ones closest to their release dates.

Currently, the three biggest companies that provide tracking data are estimating that "Hunger Games" will open to between $70 million and $90 million.

However, Lionsgate still has to roll out most of its marketing for "Hunger Games," which stars Jennifer Lawrence. If ads on TV, print and the Internet along with billboards and publicity help to increase interest in the film, it could end up opening to more than $100 million, several people who saw the data said.

While "Hunger Games" is being compared to "Twilight" by many people, because both are based on books series that are tremendously popular with teenagers, Lionsgate's upcoming film has one key advantage: While the four "Twilight" films have generated their nearly $1.1 billion in domestic box office primarily from women, surveys show that men are interested in "The Hunger Games" as well.

Females, particularly those younger than 25, are the most excited for "Hunger Games," but more men over and under 25 also rate the film as their top choice than any other film opening in the next four weeks.

Already, "The Hunger Games" has broken the record for most first-day sales from online ticketing service Fandango.

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Photo: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Lenny Kravitz in "The Hunger Games." Credit: Murray Close / Lionsgate

'The Hunger Games' breaks online ticket sales record

The Hunger Games

If early ticket sales mean anything, "The Hunger Games" is going to be a blockbuster.

Lions Gate's upcoming adaptation of the best-selling book series has broken Fandango.com's record for sales on the first day a film's tickets become available. The previous record was for the 2010 release of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse."

The online movie ticket retailer said Thursday, a day after the tickets went on sale, that it had already sold out "hundreds" of showtimes for the movie's opening weekend, which starts March 23. Many of the tickets sold are for midnight showtimes March 22, evidence that fans are building up a "Twilight"-style mania to see the film as early as possible.

"The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" went on to sell $300 million in tickets domestically. However, some movies, like January's "The Devil Inside," generate red-hot early ticket sales but quickly fall off after their first weekend in theaters.

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Photo: Stanley Tucci and Jennifer Lawrence in "The Hunger Games." Credit: Murray Close / Lionsgate.

'Hunger Games,' 'Amazing Spider-Man' sequels set far in advance

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If the film business is akin to playing poker, two Hollywood studios are making bets on a hand they haven’t yet been dealt.

Lionsgate and Sony Pictures have announced release dates for sequels to “The Hunger Games” and “The Amazing Spider-Man,” two highly anticipated movies that will be released in March and July 2012, respectively. “Hunger Games” sequel “Catching Fire” has been scheduled for November 2013, while the sequel to the “Spider-Man” reboot will hit theaters in May 2014.

Scheduling movies three years in advance — let alone before production has been greenlighted — is unusual but not unprecedented in Hollywood, where claiming prime release dates for tentpole movies has become a fiercely competitive chess game.

With the exception of multi-movie series filmed simultaneously, such as the upcoming pair of “Hobbit” pictures, industry veterans can’t recall studios ever dating the second movie in a series before the first is released. Historically, sequels aren’t scheduled until the first movie proves its box-office mettle.

Because Hollywood studios are relying on big-budget event movies with worldwide appeal for more of their revenue as they produce fewer mid-budget dramas and comedies, none wants to risk missing out on the best release date. As a result, movies are being scheduled further in advance. Aside from two historically slow weekends in early June, the summer 2013 schedule is already full.

“These are aggressive moves, but there are a handful of weekends every year that studios with gigantic movies are gunning for,” said Jim Gallagher, a consultant who was previously president of marketing for Walt Disney Studios. “Lionsgate and Sony are signaling that they will spend whatever it takes to make the first films successes because they are already setting up these franchises.”

“Hunger Games,” based on the bestselling young adult book trilogy, has been hyped as the next “Harry Potter” or “Twilight.” It’s thus no coincidence that Lionsgate scheduled “Catching Fire” on the same date — the weekend before Thanksgiving — that several “Potter” and “Twilight” movies had $100-million-plus openings.

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