The first Hunger Games scorched its way to the top of the box office.
Its $152.5 million opening weekend in North America made it the fifth-highest-grossing debut of all time. The release of the second film—The Hunger Games: Catching Fire—didn’t disappoint either, grossing $161 million in its first weekend, overtaking The Dark Knight Rises as the fourth-best debut as well as securing its spot as the highest-grossing debut starring a female lead in history.
Nor did theater-goers lose their luster for the films after opening weekend. Together, they’ve raked in about $1.5 billion globally. And with the release of Mockingjay—Part 1 this Thursday and the last installment still to come, the franchise stands to make a lot more.
The movies owe much of their smashing success to Katniss Everdeen, a character all audiences, not just teenage females, have fallen in love with. In fact, crowds over 25 and under 25 were evenly split during Catching Fire’s opening weekend. And while there were more women than men in attendance—59 percent female vs. 41 percent male—crowds were more evenly split by weekend number two, comprised of 51 percent females and 49 percent males. Compare that to an 80 percent female audience for Twilight.
So why does Katniss have so much appeal?
According to Jennifer Lawrence in an interview with NPR, “She’s not a hero…she’s just a girl who’s standing up for what’s right when something is wrong, when it’s hard – and when it’s scary.”
Whatever the attraction is that’s driving voracious appetites at the box office, it’s not only in record-breaking sales where Katniss Everdeen is leaving a mark. She’s also left a mark—a very permanent mark—in the lives of dozens of baby girls across the U.S.
Why? They’ve been given her name. That’s right, 29 girls have been named Katniss since the release of the first Hunger Games in 2012, according to an analysis by research engine FindTheBest. That’s up from a grand total of zero baby girls given the name Katniss every year prior.
It’s not only Katniss who’s inspiring a baby name trend. Strong female characters in popular literature turned film have influenced the names of hundreds of baby girls. Take Harry Potter’s leading lady, Hermione Granger. Her name stayed flat in the single digits from 1932 to 2001, but jumped to 17 occurrences in 2002, the year after the first Harry Potter movie was released. And it didn’t stop there; more than 500 girls have been named Hermione since.
HBO’s Game of Thrones is another big name influencer, with Khaleesi (which means queen) leading the way. Like Katniss, the name Khaleesi was virtually nonexistent before Game of Thrones aired in 2011, but it’s been climbing rapidly ever since.
Even Khaleesi’s real name, Daenerys, saw a spike that hasn’t stopped climbing in popularity since Game of Thrones aired.
And of course, the Twilight saga has influenced names as well. We can’t say for sure if Bella Swan is to credit for the recent uptick in her name—the first Twilight book was published in 2005 and the name has been rising since the 1990s—but we can see the effect other characters have had. Rosalie for example, was a popular name in the 1930s, but didn’t make a comeback until the first Twilight movie was released in 2008.
Even Renesmee, a mashup of the names Renée and Esme—two other female characters in the series—sprung into existence in 2008. Although Renesmee’s character wasn’t in the first Twilight movie, she was in the fourth book, Breaking Dawn, which was published in 2008.
So what’s next on the baby name front? Maybe parents will take a liking to the name Tris, from the latest book series turned 2014 blockbuster film, Divergent. It’s a name that went out of style in the 1970s, but could be due for a comeback.
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