The Hunger Games –the film version of Suzanne Collins’s best-selling trilogy of novels –has already sold out more than 2,000 screenings and is projected to have an opening weekend of at least $90 million (more than the first Twilight and on par with 2008’s Iron Man). Will The Hunger Games be the first blockbuster of 2012? If so, what’s driving all the excitement?

For starters, it’s worth noting that The Hunger Games is one of those rarities now referred to as a “four-quadrant” film: a motion picture destined to appeal to women aged 25 and over, women under 25, men 25 and over, and men under 25. Examples of other recent blockbuster “four quadrant” films include Pirates of the Caribbean ($305 million), Iron Man ($318 million) and virtually any Pixar production.

What makes The Hunger Games a hit across all four quadrants? The wide appeal stems from the story, a teenage hero’s struggle for survival in a dystopian version of our own reality-TV obsessed world. It’s a modern, gender-neutral myth –and an easy contrast to another recent young-adult book series turned film franchise phenomenon, Twilight. Ask a 28-year-old male if he wants to see Twilight and you’ll see his eyes roll. But The Hunger Games? 48 percent of young men say they are interested in seeing the film.

By all accounts, Lionsgate started with a winning script. But, the studio has also carefully crafted an innovative year-long marketing campaign to assure box office success. Here’s a small sampling of what Lionsgate did right:

Integration of off- and online channels

For an $80 million dollar production budget, The Hunger Games had a remarkably small marketing spend – just $45 million (marketing budgets for large-scale blockbusters are normally at least $100 million). How did Lionsgate keep costs so low? According to The New York Times, it’s because the 21-person team led by Tim Palen “relied on inexpensive digital initiatives to whip up excitement.”

That’s not to say that Palen’s team didn’t use old standbys in movie marketing: television spots, articles in trades, billboards, eye-catching posters and trailers. (As you might expect, this part of the campaign was targeted to the 25+ crowd who are used to making viewer decisions based on more traditional media messages.) But, the true magic of The Hunger Games marketing was in its use of compelling digital initiatives to immerse the 25-and-younger crowd –the original audience of the book –in the cinematic world of Panem, the movie’s futuristic society. To do this, the marketing team reached out across the platforms young adults now use in their everyday lives. Interactive campaigns via Facebook, Twitter, an iPhone game and the Capitol Couture Tumblr created expansive, immersive experiences that rolled out in a purposeful cadence over the course of the past year.

Reward loyalty

Lionsgate knew audiences adored Suzanne Collins books, and so, the studio had to grapple with this thorny question: How can we assure fans of the source material that the Hollywood adaptation won’t sully their beloved reading experience?

To start, a contest was created to bring a loyal fan to North Carolina during the film shoot. This initiative was designed to show fans directly –not through the “Hollywood Hype Machine” –that the film would be a faithful adaptation of their beloved books.

Clearly, any project with the visibility and excitement of The Hunger Games must rely on the good faith and blessing of the fans to succeed. Tim Palen’s team took that message to heart, and they were rewarded for doing so. Not only did The Hunger Games adaptation earn fans’ blessings, but marketing efforts around the film also inspired new readers. Before the movie marketing picked up steam, 9.6 million copies of the book trilogy were in circulation. Now? More than 24 million copies in the United States alone.

Make the most of a compelling story

The Hunger Games is first and foremost a great story about survival and rebellion featuring young characters (appealing to the under-25 crowd). It features thrilling action (male audience appeal), a love triangle (female audience appeal) and a fascinating and enthralling plot that transports audiences to another world (broad over-25 appeal). Lionsgate recognized areas of crossover and then fine-tuned certain initiatives to each of those four quadrants. Through segmentation and targeting, the studio created unique marketing opportunities, but was careful to keep each tethered to the original, winning story. Consistency like this nurtured fans, built trust among all audiences and ultimately created a “must-see fever.”

Will these efforts pay off at the box office? Most analysts think they will. But Lionsgate is savvy enough not to take anything for granted. According to The New York Times, the studio is already planning on how to keep audiences interested until the release of the DVD.