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Hunger Game fans line up to see the midnight shows in Hurst, Texas, March 22, 2012. (Max Faulkner/Max Faulkner / AP)
Hunger Game fans line up to see the midnight shows in Hurst, Texas, March 22, 2012. (Max Faulkner/Max Faulkner / AP)

Liam Lacey

Hunger Games and the power of merch Add to ...

‘I swing my legs off the bed and slide into my hunting boots. Supple leather that has moulded to my feet. I pull on my trousers, a shirt, tuck my long dark braid up into a cap, and grab my forage bag.”

This passage, as more than 36 million readers know, comes from Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, the basis of the current No. 1 film in North America. It is the story of teenagers who are forced to fight to the death for popular entertainment – sort of what it would be like if Simon Cowell had a completely free hand on American Idol. The franchise is one of Hollywood’s best bets for holding up the box office for the next few years, now that Harry Potter is finished and the Batman and Twilight series are wrapping up.

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Like many adults, I’m troubled by The Hunger Games, not so much by the child gladiators as trying to figure out how Katniss gets dressed in the morning. How do you get your boots on before your trousers? Alas, though I googled high and low, those super-supple foot-moulding hunting boots do not appear to be commercially available, though almost everything else related to The Hunger Games is.

Yes, even grinding poverty and oppression have an upside, it seems. As impoverished as the world that Katniss and her cohorts live in is, I still found a plethora of other Hunger Games-related merchandise to fill the boot-shaped holes in my heart. There are blankets, coasters, buttons, T-shirts, 24 different kinds of hoodies (suck it up, Geraldo), glassware, jewellery, pillowcases and knee-socks. There are sweatbands, watches, headphones and an $80 crossbow (just what every alienated teenaged girl needs). Mattel is even bringing out a Barbie version of Katniss. You may recall that in The Hunger Games, the more food rations kids get, the greater their chances of getting selected in a lottery that will send them to the games. Nevertheless, there’s also a Hunger Games cookbook, with recipes for Katniss’s lamb stew with dried plums and Peeta’s raisin-walnut bread.

Merchandising, rather than being a “spinoff” of youth movies, is, in fact, the tail that wags the dog when it comes to blockbuster movies. The Disney Consumer Products division, the largest of the movie-merchandising companies, has worldwide revenues in excess of $30-billion (U.S.) a year, which is about the same as the theatrical box office for all films, worldwide. Among the movie franchises that drive toy sales, according to the marketing tracker NDP Group, the big ones are Cars, Star Wars, Spider-Man, Harry Potter and Toy Story. Toy Story 3, for example, rang up $2.8-billion in merchandising in 2010, greater than its box office of slightly more than $1-billion.

The Hunger Games won’t rack up those kinds of numbers (the three to five year olds are your real target market) but the merch factor still matters. Hunger-lings, in fact, are slightly older than their Twilight cousins (exit polls indicated 56 per cent of Hunger Games fans were 25 or older), but there are similar possibilities. So far, Twilight fans have been sold everything from baking dishes, body pillows of the characters, deodorant, Twilight-themed My Little Pony figurines to condoms and “glitter lube.”

And finally, Eureka! All the Rage, the Los Angeles Times’s fashion blog, revealed this week that in the Hunger Games film, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) wears Melissa Tall Lace boots by the Frye Company (They cost $398, which, as the writer of the blog post noted, “must have cost [her]a lot of squirrels.”) The boots lace all the way up the leg, so the trousers that slip over top must logically be sweats or yoga pants. Though she’s supposed to be Appalachian poor, is it possible that our girl warrior sports Lululemon Athletica?

OPENING NEXT WEEK

The Hunter

Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill star in this adaptation of Australian writer Julia Leigh’s oblique 1999 novel about a hunter, working for a corporation, who pursues the last Tasmanian tiger.

The Deep Blue Sea

Terence Davies ( The House of Mirth) directs this adaptation of a play by Terence Rattigan ( The Winslow Boy) about an unhappy wife (Rachel Weisz) and her destructive affair with a pilot in postwar England.

The Cabin in the Woods

Hailed as a fresh meta-twist on the horror-comedy genre, director Drew Goddard’s film follows five young friends who go for a trip to the woods, and discover they’re part of something much bigger than they thought.

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

Co-directors Werner Herzog and Dmitry Vasyukov’s documentary looks at life in an indigenous Siberian hunting village over the course of a year, far from roads, railways or running water.

Hardcore Logo 2

Bruce McDonald’s follow-up to his 1996 mock-rockumentary sees the director of the first film (McDonald himself) struggling with his career and attempting to shoot a new film about Care Failure, the singer of Die Mannequin, who believes she is possessed by the ghost of the late Joe Dick.

Keyhole

Guy Maddin’s latest black-and-white dream movie is a haunted-house version of Ulysses’s homecoming, with Jason Patric as old-time gangster Ulysses Pick, who struggles to find his way to the upstairs bedroom of his wife (Isabella Rossellini).

Lockout

Described by producer Luc Besson as the plot of Taken, but in space, this sci-fi action film stars Guy Pearce as a man wrongly convicted of espionage who has the chance to win his freedom if he can rescue the president’s daughter from an outer-space prison riot.

Street Dance 2

Humiliated by a rival, Ash (Falk Hentschel) assembles the best European street dancers in a Paris studio to rehearse for a big competition.

The Three Stooges

Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s tribute to the Three Stooges, with Sean Hayes as Larry, Will Sasso as Curly and Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe. While trying to save their childhood orphanage, the Stooges stumble upon a murder plot.

Liam Lacey

Follow on Twitter: @liamlacey

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