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Fans have debated back and forth whether splitting The Hunger Games: Mockingjay into two films was a savvy idea, or a miserable waste of a year. There's one group of people that firmly fall into the former camp, and that's the distributors who see that a prolonged finale is easy money.
An unnamed studio executive from a rival company went on record praising Lionsgate for taking the final book of Suzanne Collins' YA phenomenon and splitting it into two films staggered over a two year period. Deadline, through some sort of dark marketing magic, was able to get the competition to praise the indie giant's shrewd move with the following plaudit:
Whenever a distributor like Lionsgate doesn’t have a multi-prong franchise like a Marvel, DC Comics or Star Wars, and they find a way to divide up a tentpole into two movies at a reasonable price, more power to them. Even if it does 10-30% less in its opening, they’re still stacking up money.
The fad of splitting your final installment into two films started with the best of intentions, as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows found its lengthy and dense story broken up into two decent sized installments. This, of course, yielded quite a profit, with the film's making a cumulative $677 million in the course of eight months between installments. Of course, Summit Entertainment caught wind of this strategy making massive coin, and decided that it would be a wise move to split The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn into two films – only they would split them across a full year. While the results weren't as fruitful, it was a surefire cash in to the fandom's frenzy that made the studio a mint.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay might be the first franchise to replicate this dual pronged success, as the first installment topped out at $337 million worldwide, with the second, more recent film raking in $102 million in its first weekend alone. Only $238 million stand between Katniss Everdeen and Harry Potter standing toe to toe, and if the series can surmount the mixed feelings of the first audiences to witness its finale, it stands a good shot of breaking the record. And if it doesn't, Summit Entertainment – now a fully owned subsidiary of Lionsgate – will have another chance at the crown with its two part finale to the Divergent franchise - Allegiant and Ascendant.
While literary franchises have managed to corner the market with multiple entries, and proven that this is a smart way of making money, the smarter way to rake in the cash is to build a product with enough brand recognition to topple the competition with one, fell swoop. In other words, Lionsgate and Summit should stop looking for the next YA franchise, and try to find the next Star Wars.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is currently setting the box office on fire in theaters everywhere.