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Lionsgate U.K. Uses Taylor Lautner to Help Fuel 'Hunger Games' (Exclusive)

Stanley Tucci and Jennifer Lawrence
Lionsgate

Savvy distributor gave away copies of Suzanne Collins’ first novel to the first 20,000 moviegoers watching "Abduction."

LONDON – To help chalk up this year’s biggest British box office opener to date with £4.85 million ($7.69 million), Lionsgate’s awareness campaign for Hunger Games used the star power of Taylor Lautner, of Twilight franchise fame.

Hunger Games -- the big-screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins' best-selling young-adult novel starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth – was little known on U.K. shores 12 months ago but despite unseasonable warm barbecue weather for March, still managed to open with more than twice the box office of the first Twilight film here.

Lionsgate U.K. co-founder and chief executive Zygi Kamasa told The Hollywood Reporter that a big part of the U.K. release strategy began with the source novel and worked closely with the book’s publisher Scholastic here to do just that.

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While Lionsgate was rolling out the Lautner-starrer Abduction in September last year, the savvy distributor gave the first 20,000 theatergoers a copy of Colllins’ book.

"In the U.S. there really wasn’t a need to build awareness for the book in the same way as we had to here," Kamasa said.

"We [Lionsgate U.K.] spent a lot of time working with Scholastic [the book’s publisher] to get teenagers to read the book," Kamasa said. "For example we (also) partnered with Samsung and produced a mini-booklet on Hunger Games with pictures from the set of Lawrence and Hutcherson, Hemsworth and we printed the first two chapters of the book and dished out 500,000 copies to people buying Samsung TVs," Kamasa said.

He said the partners also made it clear where customers could go online to download the book, helping it to become one of the biggest-selling books on the internet this year.

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A recent study published by the Film Distributors’ Association will likely see Kamasa and his team’s efforts to bolster source material scratch Collins’ back.

According to the FDA, movies are now a huge driver of book sales, citing Michael Morpurgo’s novel War Horse and David Nicholl’s One Day as examples.

First published in 1982 in the U.K., Morpurgo’s sold more copies in the U.K. in the two weeks after Steven Spielberg’s big-screen version hit theaters than it did in the first 25 years of its publishing life.

And of the close to a million copies sold in paperback last year of Nicholl’s book, a third of them were the 'tie-in' edition with the movie art on the cover, only published in the second half of 2011.