Why is The Hunger Games Not So Hot Abroad?
With the amount of publicity The Hunger Games has been getting in the US and its record breaking box office numbers, I was naturally curious to see if it was getting the same reaction across the world. Even though I haven’t seen the movie, Rolling Stone and other respected publications have been giving it extremely good reviews. The Hunger Games also had a huge marketing push localizing its content across different regions including
1) Region specific Facebook pages and a Facebook game
2) Region specific Twitter accounts
3) Region specific Tumblr pages
On the other hand, the new blockbuster Wrath of the Titans doesn’t have a Twitter account, and only utilized region specific Facebook pages and a Facebook game, which actually ended up being a pretty smart move considering the Facebook adoption has been much more successful abroad than the Twitter campaigns. Beyond the box office totals that show how much more weight Wrath of the Titans has overseas, the Google Search Volume Index numbers were also much stronger last week vs The Hunger Games in regions like Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, India, Greece, Thailand, and Romania.
So why did The Hunger Games flop abroad when they clearly had a stronger and more viral marketing campaign than Wrath of Titans?
Could it have been the cast? I’ve read numerous blogs that were dissatisfied with the lack of ethnic casting and the fact there were no Asians or Latinos in significant roles. Maybe it was the storyline? Many blogs were critical that the plot of The Hunger Games was a little too similar to the 2000 Japanese cult favorite film Battle Royale, where a former high school teacher at the behest of the Japanese government kidnaps his former ninth grade class and forces them to kill each other on a remote island until only one is left standing. Oddly enough the Wrath of the Titans storyline is nowhere as sophisticated and has received overwhelmingly horrible reviews. Let’s face it – the world loves American films for their action packed special effects, and maybe not so much for our derivative storylines.
There’s also the fact that very often a film as distinctive as The Hunger Games doesn’t always correspond well on a cultural level in other countries. There are tons of films that are blockbusters in the region they’re conceived in but when they come to the states it’s hard for them to match that success, and frequently they’ll even do poorly outside of their own country.
So much of what makes The Hunger Games a hit in America might actually be the same thing that’s inhibiting its success across the pond. A lot of the plot deals with a futuristic, post-apocalyptic version of North America in the context of a reality show satire that might be hard for foreign markets to fully immerse themselves in without a prior understanding of current American entertainment and political culture.
It’s also based on a series of novels that been criticized for their simplistic writing style that are teen-centric in their focus and reference points. It might be possible too that the foreign mainstream markets have a different palette that this film underwhelms. Certain regions might not have the best grasp of the English language, so some intricacies of the storyline that are lost in translation could potentially make for a less enjoyable film. It’s hard enough predicting a successful film in one country, and being able to create something with equal popularity around the globe becomes another feat entirely.
Global Box Office numbers
Hunger Games Promotional Pages
Wrath of the Titans Promotional Pages