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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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November 22nd, 2013
05:59 PM ET

'Hunger Games' recipe for success

(CNN) - Wizards, hobbits, vampires, and arrow-wielding heroines – it seems the odds are ever in their favor at the box office.

"The Hunger Games" franchise launches its second film at target audiences this weekend, and odds are it will be a bulls eye.

But the supernatural and fantasy worlds are not in and of themselves thought to be the recipe for success. The strategy for winning the Hollywood games is to focus on Young Adult books.

Step one: Take a popular one (trilogies preferred), where teens overcome hardship.

Step two: Cast the film with smoldering, young talent.

Step three: Watch the profits roll in.

"For Hollywood, the best part about a teenager is that when he or she loves something, they go all in. "The Hunger Games" fans will see the movies two, three, four times. They buy the DVD on the first day. They watch it online. They tell their friends about it," said Ben Fritz of The Wall Street Journal.

Need proof beyond "The Hunger Games" template? Take a look at "Harry Potter," "Twilight," nearly everything Peter Jackson has ever directed.

But as with any money-making plan, the challenge is in the execution.

"We're still talking about the movie industry where there are more flops than hits. Even in this genre there have been movies that didn't work. And for the sequels, when you had one success, you can't let people down, or they'll turn away, they have too many options," said Fritz.

Authors' imaginations after all don't have budget constraints. But making "The Hunger Games'" Katniss Everdeen's futuristic arena for the big screen cost around $140 million.

And Hogwarts wasn't built in a day.

These projects are not just an investment of money, but also time. From first book to final curtain call, "Harry Potter" took 14 years. Filming "Lord of the Rings" lasted more than a decade.

So in some cases actors are dedicating half their lives to a single story line, as are fans, where many pass into adulthood just plain hooked.

"People who were "Harry Potter" fans, by the end, you saw a lot of people who were in college talk about how they felt like they grew up with "Harry Potter," because they were 12 when he was 12, and they're 20 when he's 20," said Fritz.

Die hard or newbie, Team Peeta or Team Gale, fan frenzy never gets old for film executives. Combined, Harry, Bella and Katniss have earned movie studios more than $11 billion, not including this weekend's "Catching Fire" bounty.

Romantic comedies, horror flicks, and indie films can give it their best shot. But for this game, victory favors the young.

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