Capitol Couture also would prove the perfect platform by which Palen could launch a series of boldly colored and highly stylized ads he developed and shot for fake products like perfume, eyewear and fashion that seemingly come from the Capitol. The images wound up becoming traffic-stopping billboards throughout Los Angeles and New York City.
The first teaser shot of Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson together in the sequel also played up the Capitol theme, with the two dressed in stark white formalwear standing next to a silver sculpture piercing the sky -- a take on Leni Riefenstahl's propaganda posters from the 1930s.
"People who read the books know ("Catching Fire") kicks off with the Victory Tour, and we wanted to reassure fans that we're going to stick close to the books. And the costumes and scope of the second movie takes everything to the next level," Palen says. "It's a lot to ask of a single image, but this was a very efficient way to say all of that."
Another iconic image from the "The Hunger Games" books that Palen latched onto was the mockingjay pin, which serves as a symbol of freedom -- a way to rise above the oppressive state many of the citizens of the fictional country of Panem find themselves in. Palen launched the campaign for the first film and its follow-up with the pin ablaze.
With "Catching Fire," though, the mockingjay logo was redesigned. The bird is larger, its feathers fuller, and the billowing flames surrounding it more lifelike. It became a 3D version during the MTV Movie Awards, dramatically igniting behind the pic's co-star Liam Hemsworth as he introduced "Catching Fire's" latest trailer during the show.
SEE ALSO: Exclusive 'Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Cast Photos
For the design, Palen took the idea of a living logo from the covers of Collins' books, where each featured a new version of the mockingjay essentially breaking free and taking flight as the series progressed. So too will the films' version, Palen says.
"Catching Fire's" mockingjay was introduced online as a moving digital poster last November, followed by its print version in theaters in January, kicking off Phase One of the sequel's campaign, designed to remind fans what they liked about the first movie and to give them a taste of what they'd see in the second.
Phase Two, which kicked off in July at San Diego's Comic-Con, was about getting fans excited about what's different and new about the film's games, how the stakes are higher and reveal more about the characters as they try to survive the threats to themselves and to each other.
Also proving beneficial to the campaign: listening to the fans themselves. Palen's team has been careful not to show Lawrence, Hutcherson and Hemsworth together in posters, magazine covers or even at events, after "Hunger Games" devotees -- particularly fanboys -- expressed concern that Lionsgate would try to turn the films into another soapy "Twilight" love triangle.
"Romance is part of the story, but it's not the core of the story," Palen says. "From the start, we wanted to make it about (Katniss) as a hero." Lionsgate has partnered with Microsoft to take fan feedback further, launching "The Hunger Games Explorer," which uses the software company's Web browser to showcase a dizzying stream of fan-generated content pulled from Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and other sources. Palen also embraced the way fans were using quotes from the books in their social media posts, and he used them as taglines in posters. "They were doing it before we did it," Palen says. "It was a way for us to talk to them the way they talk to each other."
Given the awareness for "Catching Fire," Lionsgate was careful to limit sponsors and not oversell the movie -- a similar approach to the one Warner Bros. took with the "Harry Potter" films. The distrib also has been circumspect about the licensed merchandise it will sell at retail. "If it's not something I would want to give someone as a present, we won't make it," Palen says.
Still, the mockingjay pin itself is back, after having generated more than $15 million during the first film's release. There also are products by the National Entertainment Collectibles Assn., e-tailer Cafe Press, Hallmark Christmas ornaments, and four new dolls from Mattel (the first film featured just one, for Katniss, which sold well). A limited line of chocolates by Vosges also taps into the Capitol connection.
Ultimately, every successful campaign builds to a key image, and in "Catching Fire's" case, Palen references the final poster of the "The Hunger Games" campaign -- with Katniss, a determined look on her face, aiming her bow at an unseen target. Here, though, the final image is bathed in shades of coral, playing off the film's island setting -- and with Lawrence's hair down.
"Having her hair not in a braid anymore shows her evolution as a character," Palen says. "She's not a young girl in a crazy situation; she's a woman in a crazy situation. She's more aware of who she is and what she's doing."
Lionsgate is now in the midst of its third phase of the campaign -- a final push to rally moviegoers with a PR and social-media blitz. That effort involves pre-selling tickets six weeks in advance to boost opening-weekend numbers. But it also has meant surprising foreign distribution partners with a 60-second trailer that launched Oct. 27 during the World Series, and highlighted the action moviegoers will see during the games of "Catching Fire." None of the Hunger Games were seen in the campaign for the original film.
"With this movie and this book, there are opportunities we won't have again," Palen says. "It's our last games," given that the third book focuses more on District 13 and a rebellion to take over the Capitol. Also, audiences are now familiar with the games, having seen the first film. "From a marketing perspective, I don't want to leave anything on the table. I've been accused before of being too precious and protective of the franchise, but I want to take advantage of this moment. I want this to be gigantic."
(Photos by Williams + Hirakawa)