COVER STORY: ‘Hunger Games’ established the bona fides of its star Jennifer Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson, and turned mini-major Lionsgate into a full-fleged studio
When Jennifer Lawrence landed the role of Katniss Everdeen in the first “The Hunger Games” two years ago, neither she nor the film’s producer, Nina Jacobson, nor financial backer Lionsgate could imagine the magnitude of what would transpire for all of them.
The then-20-year-old actress had already landed on Hollywood’s radar for her brilliant turn as Ree Dolly, a determined Ozark teen searching for her missing father in 2010’s “Winter’s Bone.” But while the critically acclaimed movie earned Oscar nominations for the film and for Lawrence’s performance, it grossed a paltry $6.5 million at the domestic box office.
Jacobson had earned respect as a savvy film executive at Universal, DreamWorks and Disney, but she hadn’t yet set the world afire as an independent producer. And Lionsgate, despite having carved out a respectable niche as a scrappy independent studio, best known for its Tyler Perry and “Saw” film series, had seen its stock severely depressed due in large part to a bruising four-year corporate battle with its largest shareholder, Carl Icahn, for control of the company.
What a difference two years has made.
With the “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” set to be released Nov. 22, and two more sequels in the works, Lawrence, Jacobson and Lionsgate have each seen their professional lives and business fortunes transformed following a first film that took in $691 million globally, including $408 million at the domestic B.O.
Lawrence, who can now command $10 million a movie, has become one of the biggest female stars in the world. Jacobson certainly doesn’t have to worry where her next paycheck is coming from. And Lionsgate has evolved from a scrappy minimajor to a full-fledged studio with a franchise that promises billions of dollars in future revenue from worldwide ticket sales.