North Carolina prepares for hordes of hungry visitors

AFP Relax News
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, left), Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson, center) and Cinna (Lenny Kravitz, right) in 'The Hunger Games'

The stunning success of this weekend's hot new movie release The Hunger Games could put North Carolina on the tourism trail in North America, with global audiences getting a unique insight into the state.

Compared by critics to the Twilight series, the film tells the story of a teenage girl fighting to survive a futuristic life-and-death game show and is based on Suzanne Collins' young-adult novel.

On its release this past weekend, the film set a new box office record (for takings for a film that is not a sequel - it took $155m in North America) so comparisons have inevitably made with the surge in tourism seen by the location of the Twilight series, Forks, in Washington.

The Hunger Games is filmed entirely in North Carolina and its post-apocalyptic setting showcases the state's landscape and geography in a way most tourism authorities can only dream of -- leading North Carolina's officials to hope for a boom.

According to reports, crowds have already been flocking to some of the shooting locations, such as the abandoned Henry River Mill Village, which starred in the film as District 12, Katniss Everdeen's home.

The state's tourism website already has a section dedicated to the film, which officials have indicated has become the most popular search term among visitors reading the site.

For North Carolina, The Hunger Games is likely to be the biggest exposure it's ever had on the silver screen -- although it's not without precedent for blockbusters to pick the southern state as a filming location.

Dirty Dancing, the 1987 hit which propelled Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey to stardom, also did wonders for the state's profile, boosting its tourism industry by 25 percent -- today, it's worth over 17 billion dollars.