Theater ready for midnight release of ‘Hunger Games’

By Megan Moser

What is to fill the vacuum left after the conclusion of the Harry Potter series and the Twilight saga? For the moment, it is the Hunger Games trilogy.

Together, the young-adult books by Suzanne Collins have sold 23.5 million copies (in print alone), and at midnight tonight the first of four films based on the trilogy will open in theaters. It’s sure to draw the same kind of frenzied crowds as its fiction-series-based predecessors. In fact, it’s expected to take in more than $100 million at the box office during its opening weekend.

Set in a dystopian, post-war future, “The Hunger Games” is named for a brutal reality show instituted by a totalitarian government in which 24 teenagers — a boy and a girl from each of 12 districts — are chosen to participate in a televised battle to the death.

It stars Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence as 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to keep her family afloat by hunting and scavenging. When her sister’s name is drawn for the contest, Katniss takes her place and finds herself with a whole new survival challenge.

Andrew Peterman, a shift leader at Carmike Seth Childs 12, said he expects to fill all the theaters at the local midnight showing, which would mean more than 1,500 viewers filing in. Carmike has gotten accustomed to managing crowds for such events, he said.

“We’re going to make sure everyone lines up all nice and neat,” Peterman said. “We’re going to try to keep it entertaining for them. We’ll have games and trivia, and we’ll give away some prizes, like copies of the book.”

Peterman, himself a fan of the series, said he was excited for the film.

“I’m glad it’s at least two and a half hours long, so they should be able to fit a good amount of information from the book,” he said.

Dark, violent and action-packed, The Hunger Games books register only about a fifth-grade reading level, but they have resonated with teenage and adult readers who enjoy the book’s fast pace and deeper themes.

The first volume of the trilogy was chosen as K-State’s all-university book in 2010. (The annual program gives a copy of the selected book to incoming freshmen and stages events around it in the fall.)

Former Manhattan High School teacher Bob Kelly taught the book to his students last year after a colleague recommended it.

“I chose to teach it because it was an exciting book,” said Kelly, who retired at the end of last year. “Just like the reality shows on TV, or live sports shows, I wanted a book that people liked to read. I want kids to like reading.”

He read it with classes of at-risk students and said it was one of the first books some of them had ever liked.

Most of his curriculum consisted of more traditional English-class literature.

“You have to teach what you have,” he said. “We had enough money to buy those. The rest were the old stand-bys.”

Kelly also disagrees with recent criticism that the book’s main character is not a good role model for female readers.

“I thought in some sense it was inspirational to some of the girls in those classes that this girl could be put in a horrible situation and take responsibility to do what she had to do,” he said.

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