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UC Pop Culture Expert Says Fans Are Salivating for the Opening of ‘The Hunger Games’

Box office predictions estimate the movie will generate more than $100 million on opening weekend. University of Cincinnati pop culture expert Rebecca Sutherland Borah is following the fan frenzy.

Date: 3/19/2012
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover
The Hollywood Reporter is among the entertainment news outlets predicting that the movie “The Hunger Games” could be one of the top domestic debuts of all time when it opens on March 23. The fan frenzy over the anticipation of opening weekend is reaching its peak on the Internet, according to Rebecca Sutherland Borah, a University of Cincinnati associate professor of English and comparative literature. Borah also followed fan chat rooms on other teen literature series that translated to big bucks on the big screen, such as Harry Potter and the Twilight saga.
Rebecca Sutherland Borah
Rebecca Sutherland Borah

“If this movie doesn’t go big, I’ll be shocked,” Borah says. “I really love the books, so I’m hoping it translates well to screen.”

The futuristic movie is set in the ruins of what was once North America. The region is controlled by a cruel government – the Capitol of the nation Panem. Divided into 12 districts, the Capitol selects by lottery teenagers from every district who – in violent, Roman-themed annual games – must fight each other to the death in efforts to feed their own families. The heroine of the movie, Katniss, risks her own life by joining the games, after her much younger sister was first selected in the lottery.

“Winners get showered with gifts, have a nice place to live and their home district gets food every month,” explains Borah. “Everyone has to watch and be reminded that all are at the Capitol’s mercy. Death by starvation or illness is common in most areas,” Borah says.

Borah says the heroine, Katniss, appeals to fans, because she’s smart, strong and refuses to fall victim to her circumstances. Like the appeal of the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” movies, the appeal reaches beyond the teen audience for which the books were written.

Borah says that unlike the “Twilight” movies, “The Hunger Games” also appeals to males because of the action sequences. Borah however expects some scenes to be far too violent and scary for very young audiences, which is what has likely brought the film a PG-13 rating.

“There’s a good-and-evil streak that runs through the series, which reflects the appeal of Harry Potter. Like J.K. Rowling’s series, Suzanne Collins’ trilogy delves deeper into philosophy and political issues as the books progress,” Borah says. “The reason that the Harry Potter movies were so successful was because the producers were slavishly accurate to the books. They listened to the fans and they let the author have plenty of input into the movies as well.”

A love triangle around the heroine, Katniss, also fuels fan appeal.

“I’m seeing happy fan anticipation on Facebook pages, although there was a little griping about Jennifer Lawrence at first in the lead role, and about how her regular physical appearance didn’t match how Katniss was described in the book. But from what I’ve seen from the previews, she looks like she went to boot camp on this one, and fans have warmed up to her,” Borah says.

Borah adds that some of the stars’ ties to the Tristate hold fan appeal locally. Actor Woody Harrelson (who plays Haymitch Abernathy) grew up in Lebanon, Ohio; Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) is from Louisville, Ky., and Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark) is from Union, Ky. Borah says that the characters Katniss and Peeta are from a district in The Hunger Games that represents Appalachia.

Furthermore, Borah says she’s already seeing anticipated sales generating beyond the box office, with promotions for products, such as cosmetics, tied to the movie.