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Crowds pack theaters for midnight showing of 'Hunger Games'

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Friday, March 23, 2012
 

Close to 3,000 people filled 14 sold-out theaters, including the IMAX, on Thursday night at AMC Loews Theater in the Waterfront in Homestead for the premiere of "The Hunger Games." The packed-house scenario played out at several other movie theaters throughout the region.

Lionsgate Studio estimated that the film grossed $19.7 million nationwide in midnight shows -- the highest midnight gross for a non-sequel. It also makes "The Hunger Games" the seventh-biggest midnight debut of all time. It was shown at 2,565 locations.

Lines for four sold-out screenings at the Cinemark at Pittsburgh Mills in Frazer started to form about 5:30 p.m. Patrons were given color-coded wrist bands assigning a screen. Many sat and read the books patiently waiting for the big event.

While the crowd tended to be younger and more female than male, fans of all types came in droves to see Suzanne Collins' action thriller, directed by Gary Ross. The movie is set in a dystopian future, where the Capitol requires that a boy and a girl from each of 12 districts participate in the annual Hunger Games, in which they fight to the death. The story follows Katniss Everdeen, one of the tributes from District 12.

The late evening became a family night out at the Waterfront for the Cook crew from the Marshall-Shadeland area. Nichole, 36, and John, 38, brought daughters, Eleanor, 15; Odessa, 14; and Izabelle, 12.

"My sister convinced me to read this book, and a good book, is about how well the author writes," Nichole Cook said. "And this author just sucks you in, so it made me want to see this movie so much."

Her husband agreed.

"I loved the book, and I believe that everyone should go to at least one midnight showing in their lifetime," he said. "This is family time."

After the show, John Cook said it was worth the hype.

"It was great," he said. "There were a couple differences between the book and the movie, but we all loved it and can't wait for the next one to come out. The violence wasn't too bad. There were a couple of dead bodies, that's it."

Dennis Newton, 40, of Plum, who was at the Pittsburgh Mills screening, caught the "Hunger Games" bug after his three kids read the books. "My 10-year-old (Lauren) finished the book just today in a fast and furious way to get it done for this," he said. "She's the most excited."

Newton said the movie was awesome. He wasn't sure whether 9-year-old Simeon would last through the movie, but "he was completely enthralled."

"(Lauren) can't stop talking about it." Throughout the movie, she nudged her dad with what scene would be next.

He noticed Lauren and his 12-year-old son Dennis were on the edge of their seats. "Their hearts were still pounding when Katniss was in trouble," even though they knew she would survive.

Despite the late hour-and-15-minute late start because of projector problems -- his children made it to school on time -- ready to brag about their experience.

Tabitha Provan, 23, of Monongahela came to the Waterfront dressed in full garb for the midnight showing, complete with an official-looking nametag she fashioned online. Her vest was decorated with buttons for each of the movie's 12 districts.

"This movie covers so much," said Provan, who was holding the 17 tickets she bought online. "I read a lot of young-adult books, because I hope to write one someday. In this story, the character overcomes a horrible world she is in. It is not just about killing. It's about love, and it's about more love than the entire 'Twilight' series."

Liam Nute, 21, from Butler, declared the movie "awesome."

He came dressed as President Snow, accompanied by three fellow Slippery Rock students who also wore movie-inspired attire -- Amber Mikec, 19, from Strabane, Washington County, was Effie Trinket; Carina Iannarelli, 19, from Cecil, Washington County, was Katniss Everdeen, and Alex Barnhart, 20, from Butler was Peeta Mellark.

When you read a book where you connect with the author and the characters, Mikec said, you also connect with the other people who want to be the first to see the movie. Iannarelli said she was ready to see it again.

"I thought the entire movie was incredible," Barnhart said.

Nute's one complaint with the film was the camerawork, which involved lots of movement. "It was a little distracting, but I guess it was supposed to be what you are seeing through (Katniss') perspective."

Lots of fans wore the movie T-shirt, including Brittany Barnicott, 25, of Monroeville. She attended with friends Kati Coleman, 26, and Cara Group, 26, both from Downtown Pittsburgh. The three bought tickets the minute they were available online. After reading the latest book, they just had to see the movie.

"We came early to get good seats, because we have come to other midnight showings and not gotten great seats," Group said.

"This is not only a love story," said Coleman, who already has told her boss she wasn't going to make it to work Friday. "There is so much more. I love the midnight showing, because then I am the first to see the movie."

Seeing the violence of young people getting stabbed with arrows to the heart wasn't going to keep Summer DeRubeis, 19, a student at Pitt, and Alex Cheek, 18, and Kylie Madden, 17, both from Elizabeth Township, from watching. The three agreed the book is pretty intense and wanted to see that intensity transformed on screen.

"Coming to the opening-night show means most of the members of the crowd are fans and really appreciate it," DeRubeis said. "They are like us and really want to see the show. They are hardcore 'Hunger Games' fans."

Pine-Richland teacher Tim Ervin, 36, of New Kensington, read all the books several years ago and likened the story to his favorite high school book "1984" -- although "not quite as dark." He read all the books again last summer and passed them to friends.Ervin, who had planned a personal day on Friday after the midnight Pittsburgh Mills showing, said the movie lived up to its billing. The suspenseful parts matched the book and he didn't find the violence over the top. "It exceeded my expectations," he said.Ervin said the movie departed slightly from the book so it could fill in gaps for the nonreaders. Everyone in his group of nine adults thought the movie was well done: "We're all pretty unanimous."

He said the sold-out theater, with an audience of mostly teens, was well-behaved with no talking and no noise.

"It was kind of fun, especially at midnight," says Ervin, "This is more like an experience."

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