‘Games’ fans hunger for more merchandise

"The Hunger Games" has inspired a board game, posters, books, toys, nail polish and trading cards.
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles Times

Danielle Pepers is such a fan of"The Hunger Games"that she had the book’s unofficial mascot — a mockingjay — tattooed on her right arm this month. But her intrigue with the books and movie, which hit theaters Friday, didn’t stop there.

On a recent Wednesday, Pepers, 27, was shopping for T-shirts and jewelry at Hot Topic, a teen-oriented chain store at the Glendale Galleria that sells pop-culture ephemera. A mound of movie tie-in merchandise greeted her at the door.

There were knee socks, pillowcases and nail polish. Mini figures, sweatbands, even a watch. Still, that wasn’t all. Stepping over to the digital kiosk, one could see dozens of other “Hunger Games” items — 60 in total — that could be special ordered into the store, including an $80 crossbow and ear buds for $19.50.

The publisher of the books the movie is based upon is releasing four movie tie-in titles, including an illustrated movie companion, a tribute guide and “The World of the Hunger Games,” a visual dictionary featuring pictures from the film. Other publishers are also hoping to cash in, with unofficial guidebooks, cookbooks and parodies, including Harvard Lampoon’s “The Hunger Pains.”

It’s Lionsgate, however, that has unlatched the floodgates on a tidal wave of licensed merchandise — most of it sold at Hot Topic and made by the National Entertainment Collectibles Assn. in New Jersey, one of the country’s largest providers of wholesale licensed movie merchandise.


Earlier this month, Los Angeles nail polish company China Glaze began selling Electrify (in orange glitter), Stone Cold (in metallic flake) and 10 other colors inspired by “The Hunger Games’” 12 districts. Licensed through Lionsgate and available at Hot Topic and Sally Beauty, the nail polish line’s sales “have already exceeded our normal collection standards,” said China Glaze brand manager Rachel Schafer.

Huge as “The Hunger Games” is, nothing says success like a Barbie. Mattel recently announced plans to introduce a collectible Katniss Everdeen doll to its Barbie Collector series before the end of the year.

Based on the breadth of merchandise alone, “The Hunger Games” is nothing short of a sensation. The trilogy of books about a teenager named Katniss Everdeen who’s forced to battle fellow teens to the death in front of a live television audience has more than 26 million copies in print in the U.S. and has been published in 47 foreign-language editions since September 2008. The books’ publisher, Scholastic, boasts 600,000 friends on the official “The Hunger Games” Facebook page; Lionsgate’s Facebook page for “The Hunger Games” movie has almost 3 million fans.

“Every day since we had the galleys of this book [four years ago], something exciting has happened, and it’s just continued,” said Scholastic publicity director Tracy van Straaten.

It wasn’t long after “Catching Fire,” the second book in “The Hunger Games” series, was published in 2009, that it began to spawn merchandise spinoffs.

Before the movie deal was inked, there were book-derived items, including posters, a calendar and pins and pendants of the mockingjay — a fictional bird that plays a prominent role in the books, mimicking songs, whistling warnings and acting as a good luck charm to Katniss and as a symbol of the rebellion she inspires against a superficial and oppressive government.

The amount of merchandise from the book alone is rare, according to Jason Dravis, a Los Angeles-based film agent who’s represented numerous bestselling books that made their way to the big screen, including Brian Selznick’s “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” Kate DiCamillo’s “The Tale of Despereaux,” Beverly Cleary’s “Ramona the Pest” and now Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games.”

“Merchandise is such a visual medium. It’s easier to merchandise off of a movie versus a book, which is probably why so few books have a merchandise line, especially in the novel form,” Dravis says.