Capitol Couture: Living in the world of The Hunger Games

Speaking of film marketing, what do you think of? Posters, billboards, trailers or website? Tim Palen, the Lionsgate’ marketing chief does not thinks in that way. He goes beyond traditional film marketing campaign, bringing the universe to life in an elaborately detailed campaign for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”.

Fashion Magazine Capitol Couture: Bring Panem to life and Alternative way of product placement


Cover page of Capitol Couture (Source:

During the year-long campaign that launched last November, Palen created an online fashion magazine, Capitol Couture, modeled after luxury publications like DuJour, Gotham and Ocean Drive, built around the ultra-rich and style-obsessed capitol city of Panem, the fictional nation in the bestselling author’s trilogy of young adult novels. Reading Capitol Couture, people would feel like that they were living in the city of Panem.


Collins, the writer of The Hunger Games was also excited of this brave idea, “It’s appropriately disturbing and thought-provoking how the campaign promotes ‘Catching Fire’ while simultaneously promoting the Capitol’s punitive forms of entertainment. The stunning image of Katniss in her wedding dress that we use to sell tickets is just the kind of thing the Capitol would use to rev up its audience for the Quarter Quell (the name of the games in “Catching Fire”). That dualistic approach is very much in keeping with the books.”

Cover Girl via Capitol Couture (Source:

Cover Girl via Capitol Couture (Source:

Apart from bring the fictional nation to reality, generating the context of the new movie; Capitol Couture was also a perfect platform for product placement. Overt product placement or sponsorships were annoying and would turn off fans, no matter how subtle they were. However, products in Capitol Couture were ambient ads, relating to the film but not violate its own territory. It provides a place for promotional partner Cover Girl to tout its products and tie in with the film. Fashion e-tailer Neta-Porter and nail polish brand China Glaze are other beauty partners tying in via Capitol Couture.

Capitol Portraits: turning posters release into events


Capitol portrait of Katniss (Source:

In March, Palen and his team used Capitol Couture to create a series of so-called Capitol Portraits — dramatic photographic images that revealed the look of the sequel’s 11 major characters who play significant roles in laying the groundwork for the final rebellion in the third and fourth films.

Other studios release such photos as character posters, but Palen does not want to do  something so mundane, and at the same time carefully control the story he was trying to tell — while also having some fun. Lionsgate turned the release of each portrait into an event, sending images as exclusives to a variety of online partners like MTV, IGN, Yahoo Movies, Empire, MSN and the Huffington Post, and through the fake magazine’s Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook feeds. The shots were first teased with empty chairs on Instagram, which generated considerable buzz on their own, and helped four different characters trend on Twitter in the week their portraits were released.


Film marketing in today’s society, while less people go to cinema compared with 50 years ago, is so important that it sometimes determines the life or death of a film. “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” provided a good example of using digital media to bring the imaginary nation to life, blurring the line between fantasy and reality, as well as merging the commercial product into the culture of the film. It also turned every ordinary advertisement into event, generating more buzz around the film. Therefore, as Palen suggested, this film might attract not only teens and tweens, but also Hispanics, African-Americans, fashionistas, even seniors.

However, people may question the idea of “audience creation” by advertisements. Even though sometimes advertisement becomes more and more important, for many people the content is still the priority. No matter how successful the campaign is, people who are not interested in the theme of the film will not go to cinema.

Which is your favorite movie marketing campaign? Do you think film marketing is more important than the content of the film? Have you ever been attracted to the cinema because of its marketing campaign?


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13 Responses to Capitol Couture: Living in the world of The Hunger Games

  1. plama says:

    Hey Mirror, the idea of launching fashion website related with the movie The Hunger Games is really interesting. The movies does have fashion elements for the future. One of the other movie with interesting marketing strategies is THOR. The movie has lot of posts being viral like Marvel Marketing Thor to Women by Jimmy Kimmel and Chinese cinema accidentally using fake Thor posters with Thor and Luki cuddling each other I don’t know if it is planned but I believe the movie is definitely getting benefit of awareness by it. However, I am not into the movie yet.

    • Mirror says:

      Thanks for sharing the funny trailer of THOR, it is really interesting to promote a comic book movie in the romantic way. I have also read the articles about Chinese cinema, my guess is that it is an accident. Or maybe the cinema want to attract another group of audience, which are slash fan girls, enjoying reading and writing love stories between Thor and Loki (yeah, there are lots of slash fan girls in China).

  2. Wenjing Tang says:

    Thanks, Mirror. I think the idea to bring the fictional nation to reality is awesome. It helps the film to build intimate connection with audiences while providing a ‘visual feast’ to hook fashionistas. Ideally, both the marketing strategy and the film content are expected to be of high quality. However, if you cannot manage both, the marketing strategy as far as I know, weighs more. You know, a bad-produced film can be a commercial success if well promoted, but a good film without proper marketing campaign can be even hard to put on screen. Taking Chinese movie as an example, everyone knows how poor it is directed and performed. However, it still hit Chinese theaters and generated buzz. Comparing to the fantastical upper-class lifestyle, to the beautiful actors and actresses, who cares about the content!

    Something about :

    • Mirror says:

      Agree! I also very concern about the bad word-of-mouth promotion in China. People are attracted by these negative opinions and even want to watch these movies to find out how awful it could be. Maybe it is because Chinese movie market isn’t mature enough. For producers, no news is bad news. To catch people’s eyeballs is their first concern.

  3. Andrea Pan says:

    Hi Mirror! I am so excited to see you post about Hunger Game while I am still in the bitterness of having missed a screening yesterday… As important as marketing is to commercial films, I personally would not go to a film or watch one because of a good marketing communication built around it. Some influential film marketing campaigns I’ve seen all involve heavily engaged fans, meaning that there’s gotta be great content to attract audience and to create that large fan base. However, I think Capitol Couture is a brave and smart move. First of all, Hunger Game surely has its fans (count me in). Secondly, even if the marketing effort does not contribute directly to the box office, it’s not at all a bad idea to make some extra money by proper product placement and endorsing some other brands.

    • Mirror says:

      Have you watched it now? Do you enjoy it?
      I agree that this kind of marketing heavily targets to the fan of movies. The reason maybe that big studios produce more comic books and sequals now so that there are already lots of fans of movies. To target to them is a wise choice. However, for movies based on original scripts, marketing is a totally different stories. It does not target to fans, but tries to create fans. I always doubt whether it could really create fans though movies marketing.

  4. Moran Pei says:

    Thank you for bringing us this Mirror. This is a very enlightening marketing campaign: connecting movies with fashion design. And about your question, whether marketing is more important than the content of the film, my answer would be no, and I believe that content is the king. Nowadays we have too many marketing campaigns trying to be different from others, and accordingly many audiences are getting tired of it. Based on my personal experience, I would spend some time searching additional information about a movie only if I am already a fan of it, or say, I need to enjoy the movie at first. I have no idea what the Campaign for was about until I saw the movie and did some research afterward because of the affection. In other words, the campaign received good reputation because the movie is also very good.

    • Mirror says:

      I am that kind of person who will do some research before going to the cinema. Therefore, personally, I agree with you that movie marketing has little impact on me. However, some of my friends won’t do that. They simply go to the cinema, to choose the movie they have heard of. Their choices may heavily rely on advertising and marketing. So I guess the impact of marketing varies on different kinds of audience.

  5. Fangya Li says:

    I think the idea to launch a fashion website based on the plots in the movie is quite creative and cool. I love the movie The Hunger Games a lot, and I am looking forwards to see its second episode. However, I am not that interested in its fashion website and before reading this blog post, I even don’t know that they have a fashion website for almost a year. And I doubt about the effectiveness of this campaign. How many people are attracted to the website? How many of those viewers will really go to the cinema to see the second Hunger Games?
    Do you remember one of the film campaigns we watched in our class several weeks ago? It is a campaign for the film Carrie. I love that one a lot, so I go to the cinema for it. I think film marketing is important because it can attract more audience. But the content is important too because before going to the cinema, some people will look for the reviews online. If the movie only gets two or three stars, people will probably reconsider their decisions.

    • Mirror says:

      I think Andrea’s comment may answer your questions. The Hunger Game campaign may targets more to its loyal fans, maybe that is the reason many of us have never heard of it.

  6. Siyu says:

    Thanks for sharing! I read a lot about the costume designer for the Hunger Games 2 , Trish Summerville. She did a great job in designing the costume for the characters. By going after what you said, I think fashion and films are always together, especially those stories happen in cosmopolitans. Fancy!

    • Mirror says:

      Agree! A movie is not only a movie, it contains many elements, fashion, art, music and so on. I think besides fashion, there are also many elements can be used in further campagins!

  7. Lilian Mak says:

    Thanks for sharing. Definitely something interesting to look into after seeing all the beautiful costumes in the second movie of Hunger Games. I personally agree with Moran that content is the king but then I believe film marketing is important too. Just like the movie Carrie, if I had not seen the film campaign for Carrie, I would not have been attracted to watch it because I am scared of watching horror movies. I think film marketing has its own power and effectiveness in promoting the film to a new and larger group of audience.