N.C. braces for tourism impact of 'Hunger Games'

Murray Close / Today
In this image released by Lionsgate, Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss Everdeen, left, and Liam Hemsworth portrays Gale Hawthorne in a scene from "The Hunger Games." (AP Photo/Lionsgate, Murray Close)

From waterfalls near Hendersonville to abandoned buildings in Shelby, North Carolina expects major exposure – and long-term impact – from the unveiling of “The Hunger Games” film this weekend.

The film, which opens Friday, was shot entirely in North Carolina – “every frame,” Aaron Syrett, director of the North Carolina Film Office, said with pride.

The impact of the film could be far-reaching. The books, by Suzanne Collins, have sold millions of copies. Syrett said Lionsgate Films has an “incredible” marketing campaign behind the film.

“You can’t buy a billboard this large,” Syrett said Wednesday. “It will have a tremendous tourism impact for years to come.”

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The film used more than 4,000 extras, all of them from North Carolina, and also had a crew of around 500, the majority of them coming from the state.

The film is about a post-apocalypse society in which the Capitol demands tribute from the surrounding regions by having one boy and one girl compete in the Hunger Games. The games are nationally televised, and only one teen survives.

The filmmakers needed run-down buildings and warehouses for the dark film, and found them in such places as Shelby.

Margo Metzger / Today
This undated image provided by shows the abandoned Henry River Mill Village in Hildebran, N.C., where scenes from "The Hunger Games" were shot. The house on the left was outfitted as the Everdeens' home in the Seam, part of District 12 in fictional Panem. (AP Photo/, Margo Metzger)

"It was a mill town with company houses and all that that we were able to shoot in. That was quite a lucky find," director Gary Ross told NBC.

Shelby became “District 12,” the home of several of the film’s main characters. Shelby officials expect tourists to visit just to see places the film used.

Other areas in western North Carolina became essential to the film as well. “The Hunger Games” was shot at an abandoned cigarette factory around Charlotte. Another scene was shot at Triple Falls, a popular waterfall at DuPont State Forest near Brevard.

Syrett said North Carolina already has 10-15 films either in preparation, shooting or wrapping up now. And “The Hunger Games” will help the state continue to attract the movie industry.

“It’s really a small industry,” Syrett said. “Everybody knows everyone and they talk. This will be the main topic in Los Angeles for the next few weeks.

“And we’ve done a good job of letting people know it was shot in North Carolina. We certainly have seen a volume of level of interest in North Carolina rise in the past year or so because of it.”

But, he said, “I think Monday will busy day for us.”

And right after “The Hunger Games,” another blockbuster is ahead. Syrett said “Iron Man 3” is in prepping mode now, and shooting will begin soon.

Any hints on where? The Triangle, perhaps?

“I can’t say right now,” he said.

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