Should ‘Dark Knight Rises’ Take Cues From ‘Hunger Games’?

Batman and Katniss duke it out to be champion of the 2012 box office, in The Weekly Rising.
By Kevin P. Sullivan

Tom Hardy in "Dark Knight Rises"
Photo: Warner Bros.

What is going on with "The Dark Knight Rises" and its lack of a marketing campaign? We're four months out from what is supposed to be the biggest movie of the year, but all we have to show for it are two trailers and new theater standees.

This past weekend's box-office domination of Jennifer Lawrence and "The Hunger Games" stands as a testament to the power of a strong marketing campaign when you have a rabid fanbase helping to carry the load.

Warner Bros. has so far taken an entirely different route when it comes to promoting the final film of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. It's no secret that "The Dark Knight Rises" is coming out and that everyone wants to see it. The mania around "The Dark Knight" established a subculture of raspy-voiced Batman parodies and every male teen attempting Heath Ledger's Joker makeup and ensured a huge box-office take for the eventual third film.

But with so much of the movie industry now focused on "The Hunger Games" and its "bigger than we could have imagined" success, can "The Dark Knight Rises" afford to coast into theaters in July without a similarly mega-huge marketing campaign? And how high can a big-budget movie like "The Dark Knight Rises" fly without the increasingly common deluge of marketing?

Box-office experts weighing in on the success of "The Hunger Games" give credit to the balance of a hard marketing push and dedicated fanbase. Lionsgate got the word out early and often that "The Hunger Games" was a phenomenon that wouldn't and couldn't be missed. For the most part, the campaign fit the property. The three best-selling books had a huge following, but Katniss Everdeen wasn't exactly a household name heading into last weekend. If a 30-year-old guy didn't know the Suzanne Collins novels, the commercials could have been enough to entice him.

The approach to marketing "The Dark Knight Rises" should be different. No one needs to be told who Batman is. Everyone and their English butler went to go see "The Dark Knight" in 2008 and would probably be interested in seeing a third film. But what's new? Fans can look forward to Bane, Catwoman and the Batwing, but there isn't a news hook like Ledger's death that makes it something more than the next big movie to see.

When the returns from "The Hunger Games" rose and rose and crept ever closer to the record previously held by "The Dark Knight," there may have been a slight panic from Batman fans. What if 2012 has already seen its biggest weekend at the box office and Katniss Everdeen has already been crowned the champion?

It would be ignorant to suggest that "The Dark Knight Rises" can't succeed without an all-encompassing viral marketing campaign and commercials airing every other minute, but what "The Hunger Games" may have proven is that without those elements, Batman might have to settle for second place.

Are you disappointed with the level of marketing/images/previews/trailers from "The Dark Knight Rises"? Hit me up on Twitter @KPSull and we'll discuss later in the week over on the Movies Blog!

Check out everything we've got on "The Dark Knight Rises."

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