How The Hunger Games Brought a Web Windfall to the World's Tiniest Island Community
Next month brings the launch of The Hunger Games, one of the most-anticipated releases of the 2012 calendar and the first installment of a hopeful franchise based on Suzanne Collins's bestselling young-adult adventure trilogy. In selling their film, studio execs at Lionsgate have ramped up all manner of marketing to immerse fans in the experience — and, in doing so, have made the least-populated jursdiction on the planet a financial beneficiary.
The Hunger Games series features teenaged heroine Katniss Everdeen and concerns a North America remade into a dystopian dictatorship, renamed Panem and ruled by the governing body called The Capitol. As Lionsgate has expanded its promotional campaign, a wide array of affiliated websites has sprung up in an effort to make Panem as real as possible, many of those bearing obscure web addresses (e.g. http://www.Capitol.pn) to imply that the sites originate in the nation depicted in the film.
This unique designation is not a studio fabrication, however. The .pn modifier is the domain offered up by the very real government of the Pitcairn Islands, a collection of four land masses comprising 18 square miles in the middle of the southern Pacific Ocean. This British territory rests over a thousand miles west of Easter Island and just as far east of Tahiti.
So how did Pitcairn, with barely over 50 residents and intermittent electrical services, become the Internet home of a major Hollywood franchise?
“It's a happy coincidence," Bill Haigh, governmental registrar for the island’s domain offices, told me in an e-mail correspondence. “Lionsgate have found .pn useful to them, and it has been helpful for bringing benefit to the island."
As the movie studio looked into creating an online presence for the film's fictional nation, a functional domain was already in place. The Pitcairn government offers up these domains primarily for corporations to establish and/or protect their brand, and Haigh explained that the proceeds go a long way toward the islands' infrastructural upkeep.
"The sale of domain names is of great benefit to the 50 or so inhabitants of Pitcairn Island," he said, "because revenue thus gathered is used to bring modern telecommunications to this extremely remote spot on the globe via satellite. This is quite an expensive process. And it is not only for telecommunications but generally for supply shipping, children's education, medical care etc."
The result is that The Hunger Games has become a boon for this tiny territory, one that lacks a movie theater and receives but two cable channels — CNN and Turner Classic Movies. While Haigh declined to divulge the number of Web addresses purchased by the studio (Lionsgate reps did not respond to requests for comment), he did direct me to an online registry where one can inquire about the availability and ownership of various selections. Along with already established Capitol.pn, and CapitolCouture.pn, there are registrations for Panem's various districts (District1.pn, through District13.pn), and each of the main characters have their own addresses (e.g. PresidentSnow.pn).
Ultimately it's impossible to deduce exactly how many Hunger Games characters, phrases and permutations thereof have staked a .pn claim. After browsing the registry for a while, however, it seems safe to assume that Lionsgate may have vastly more addresses collected than there are Pitcairn residents. And based on the fee of $100 NZ (appx. $75 US) per registered address, Hunger brings in revenues well into the thousands of dollars — a tidy supplement to the islands' steady tourism business.
As geographically remote as the Pitcairn Islands are, this Hunger Games dalliance does not make for their sole involvement with Hollywood. Most of the surnames found on the island are shared by characters from the oft-adapted novel Mutiny on The Bounty; the book and numerous films are based on historical events that occurred on and around Pitcairn. For this reason cruise ships are a common sight in Bounty Bay, where visitors will find the outpost isle's own capitol. However, as much of a windfall as Hunger Games may prove for the islands, it is doubtful “Everdeen” will appear anytime soon in the area phone books.
Read Movieline's full Hunger Games coverage here.