How the audience for The Hunger Games has evolved from the original series
The highly-anticipated The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes debuted at the top of the US box office this past weekend, eight years after the last franchise instalment, Mockingjay Part Two. With a long gap between titles, did the prequel film attract a similar audience to the original trilogy? We examined the film's US opening weekend audience and uncovered valuable marketing opportunities to entice more audiences to the big screen to experience the new Hunger Games title.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes drew a primarily infrequent and occasional audience in its opening weekend across the US, with 33% of the total audience being infrequent moviegoers and 35% occasional. 2015's The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two, the most recent previous title, also saw predominantly occasional moviegoers in its opening weekend at 40% of the film's audience. In contrast, the 2023 re-release of the original The Hunger Games instead drew a mostly frequent audience (35%) and a large proportion of very frequent moviegoers, who comprised 16% of the re-release's audience compared to The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes' 5% and the average of 3.4% for all films in Movio's Research Console.
Interestingly, 3% of the audience for The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes have already seen the movie more than once in the opening weekend, indicating a heightened level of engagement and enthusiasm for the title than average.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes appealed to a predominantly young audience, with more than a third of the opening weekend audience aged under 25 (36%). Moviegoers aged 18-24 comprised the largest portion of the audience at 24%, more than double the benchmark of 11% for all films, and 6% higher than the previous title Mockingjay Part Two. This understandably came at the tradeoff of a lower proportion of moviegoers aged 12-17 for The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes than Mockingjay Part Two.
All of this together indicates that the film has effectively managed to both attract a new audience to the franchise and to reignite the interest of fans from the original series. With eight years between the two instalments, many fans of course have matured from one age bracket to another, with much of Mockingjay Part Two's under-18 audience now falling into the over-18's for The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. This matches with us seeing the under-18 audience for The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes under-represented, as many of those moviegoers would have been too young to be returning fans from the original series' theatrical run.
Compared to Movio's Research Console's benchmark, The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes over-indexed for female attendees at 54% of the audience, 8% above the benchmark of 46%. Notably, its most similar titles, The Marvels and Barbie, both featuring female leads, share this trend, reflecting the fact that representation drives audience attendance. Despite The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes having a male lead for the first time in the franchise, the enduring female audience appeal from the previous films is clearly reflected.
The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes has already seen strong attendance from infrequent moviegoers, but there is an opportunity to engage the frequent moviegoers who attended the re-release of the original The Hunger Games as they made up the majority of the attendance for that film.
Given the franchise's target demographic historically, there is potential to introduce The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes to a younger audience who may be less familiar with the franchise, particularly moviegoers aged under 18 as this demographic is under-represented at 12% below that for Mockingjay Part Two. Given the franchise's history of successfully appealing to younger teenagers, the messaging strategy may need adjustment to position the film as a standalone title, eliminating the necessity to have watched the previous instalments. This approach would help to entice younger moviegoers who may not be familiar with the franchise. Females, in particular, are most likely to be drawn to this movie, so targeted marketing to young females who have shown interest in previous female-led films like The Marvels and Barbie, would most likely help to boost overall attendance.
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*Frequency is based on a moviegoers' six-month session count:
< 2 = Infrequent
2-5 = Occasional
6-25 = Frequent
26+ = Very Frequent