November 3, 2015
Hunger Games theme parks probably won’t feature human sacrifice ride
by Taylor Sperry
In one of the more unsettling forays into Hollywood franchising, Lionsgate Entertainment is moving forward with a plan to open two new amusement parks—one in Atlanta, another in Macau—based on Suzanne Collins’s bestselling trilogy (and subsequent box office blockbuster) The Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games books (which boast more than 65 million copies in print and digital formats in the U. S. alone) are set in Panem, a dystopian future America where, every year, each of twelve districts must sacrifice one boy and one girl (“tributes”) to the ruling Capitol to participate in what is, literally, a fight to the death.
It’s not exactly “The Happiest Place on Earth.” (When the idea for a Hunger Games theme park was first floating around in 2013, we posted a list of attractions developers might do well to include.) But James Ram, the vice chairman of Avatron Smart Park in Atlanta, seems undaunted: “There are so many positives about these movies, starting with the fact that [leading character Katniss is] an empowered young woman,” he says in a New York Times report by Brooks Barnes.
But whatever their feminist merits, franchises of this kind have long been an attractive investment for entertainment companies, and in the next few years Lions Gate expects to generate $100 million in revenue from “location-based entertainment”—and possibly more depending on the success of gift shop merchandising.
This staggering figure is consistent with reports from Comcast, Universal Studios Florida’s parent company, after “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley” opened in July 2014. The year after the Harry Potter attraction came to Orlando, theme park revenue from Comcast’s NBC Universal division jumped from $661 million to $786 million.
“It’s about brand extension and brand loyalty, about fanning the flames of Katniss fandom between film releases and after the series comes to a close later this month,” Megan Garber writes for The Atlantic. “It’s about turning the messages of The Hunger Games—the value of justice and youth and personal strength—into money.”
And it’s likely only a matter of time before Twilight, another Lions Gate property—with similarly sensational literary origins—will be coming to a theme park near you.
Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.