What's missing from 'The Hunger Games' ads

Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth attend the European Premiere of 'The Hunger Games' in east London on March 14, 2012.

David Brancaccio: The Lionsgate studio spent $45 million on just the marketing for the forthcoming film 'The Hunger Games.' But despite all that promotion, something's missing.

Ben Fritz writes for the Los Angeles Times.  Hello, Ben.

Ben Fritz: Hello.

Brancaccio: I've been watching these trailers for this film, and I can't quite figure out exactly what the "games" are -- is it me, or is it a strategy?

Fritz: No, that's an absolutely purposeful strategy. Lionsgate, the studio behind 'The Hunger Games,' is not showing the hunger games themselves in any of the trailers or advertisements.

Brancaccio: So, the games themselves -- why, just to wet people's appetite? Or maybe it's just too gross?

Fritz: It's a combination. They want to whet your appetite. I spoke to some marketing experts for an article on this today, and it's a very powerful notion, they all said. As you know, in a lot of trailers these days, they kind of show you everything. You almost see the entire movie, and then you're like, well, why bother seeing it? In this case, they've got people excited, and you haven't even seen a lot of it yet.

Brancaccio: OK, so part of it is a strategy -- but some of it is what they would reveal if they showed too much of the games. I mean, it's kinda bloody? I haven't seen the film, but that's what I'm led to believe.

Fritz: In purpose, it's not very bloody, but it's a little disturbing. The hunger games are a bunch of 12-18 year olds who have to kill each other, and there's only one survivor. They do it on TV in a futuristic nation. I think Lionsgate also determined it would be very difficult to show out of context in a TV commercial or a trailer -- it would be super disturbing. It's disturbing enough in the film, but at least there's some context to it then.

Brancaccio: But perfectly OK to show in front of teenagers in the full-length film... I guess. Ben, have you ever seen any other movies that have held back like this with their promotional materials?

Fritz: It's very rare, David. The only other example that I could find was -- believe it or not -- the old 'Godzilla' movies in Japan; that they wouldn't show the entire monster in the commercials, they'd only show brief glimpses, so then you'd really want to see the movie and see what he actually looks like.

Brancaccio: That's true -- it's sort of like in the movie "Alien," when they only show you part of the monster, it is scary.

Fritz: Right, that's exactly right.

Brancaccio: Well Ben Fritz, L.A. Times, thank you very much for this.

Fritz: Sure thing, thank you for having me.

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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