How the ‘Hunger Games’ franchise changed Hollywood

Story highlights

The final film in the young adult series opens Friday

The franchise has made billions

CNN  — 

When “Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” hits theaters on Friday, it will bring to a close one of the most successful film franchises in recent history.

The first three films grossed over $2.3 billion worldwide, launched careers and started trends. Here are just some of the ways “Hunger Games” has changed Hollywood:

We now have Jennifer Lawrence.

Her casting was hotly contested in 2011 by fans who loved the book trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The then-20-year-old was seen by some as too old to portray 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who heroically fights in the dystopia known as Panem, where children battle each other to the death to entertain the masses.

But as soon as Lawrence hit the screen with her side ponytail, bow and arrows, she was a hit.

The success of the “Hunger Games” films has propelled her to meaty roles in films including “American Hustle” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” which earned her a best actress Oscar in 2013.

With her down-to-earth nature, she quickly became America’s newest sweetheart, and she recently topped Vulture’s list of most valuable stars for the second year in a row.

“Her big-studio box-office record is unimpeachable (and only improved now that last year’s second-highest-grossing movie, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1, has been factored in), her innate BFF-ability earned her sky-high likability, gossip, and Twitter scores, and every one of the studio executives we polled gave Lawrence their highest rating,” the publication said of Lawrence. “Put very simply, she is the leading movie star of her generation.”

There’s heightened interest in YA.

Let’s be honest: There would probably not be a “Divergent” film franchise were it not for “Hunger Games.”

The success of the latter surely helped launch the former as Hollywood took notice of the big box office numbers that could result from adaptations of young adult novels.

There are dozens of films based on YA novels; planned adaptations include “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” and “Shadow and Bone.”

Making money with a message

From Katniss being hailed as a feminist to Lawrence taking on wage inequality, empowered women is a theme intrinsic to the “Hunger Games.” Not to mention what the books and films have to say about our society as a whole.

Natalie Dormer, who starred as Cressida in the final two films, said at a recent news conference, “I think ‘the Hunger Games’ as a phenomenon has rewritten the rulebook for what can be a commercially viable blockbuster, and it’s long overdue.

“A franchise can have important messages and hope to inspire a generation and still make a load of money and get [backsides] on seats,” Dormer said. “It’s about the quality of the writing. We can be more sophisticated and more respectful of our audiences when we make big blockbusters.”

Review: ‘Hunger Games’ conclusion leaves little to feast on