The highly anticipated blockbuster, "The Hunger Games", is spurring a new appetite for tourism in North Carolina.
“It’s starting to hit us how huge 'Hunger Games' is going to be for North Carolina,” said Aaron Syrett, director of the North Carolina Film Office.
Syrett's office worked hard to convince film producers to pick their state to be the main stage of the film, and it paid off. Everything was shot in North Carolina – from the post-apocalyptic setting of the Capitol where the teens must duel, to starving ghettos of District 12.
Now the state hopes to cash in on what is expected to be a box office success when it opens this weekend.
“People wanting to experience the feel and the scenery from the movie are going to get that experience only in North Carolina so we’re really looking forward to what’s going to happen,” said North Carolina Department of Tourism's Wit Tuttle.
The film, set in a post-apocalyptic world, is about the Hunger Games, a tribute to the rich and powerful Capitol, where two teens -- one boy and one girl -- from the surrounding regions are selected to compete in a battle to the death. The movie is based on the first in a book trilogy from author Suzanne Collins.
The film, shot over six months, showcases North Carolina’s vast landscape and geography. To set the scene for this sometimes dark film, producers needed run-down buildings, forests and warehouses.
“We went all over North Carolina,” said "Hunger Games" producer Nina Jacobson. “We found locations that we couldn’t believe how right they were for the book.
One town was the Henry River Mill Village a once a thriving cotton mill village, now abandoned, which served in the film as District 12-- home to heroine Katniss Everdeen.
Already crowds have been flocking to these and others sites, to catch a glimpse of where the film was shot. The tourism department in North Carolina has laid out a four-day itinerary that will guide visitors to film sites, star hangouts, and places that connect with the characters and other elements of the film.
“You can not only see the sites where the movie was filmed, but you can go to the places the stars went to when they were filming it,” said Tuttle. “ You can ear in the restaurants they ate, you can go to some of the hangouts they experienced.”
“It’s the largest film ever to be made in North Carolina to this point,” said Syrett. The only film shot in the state that will rival the success of "The Hunger Games" was "Dirty Dancing", which boosted the states 17 billion dollar tourism industry by 25 percent.
“We are talking about a very big impact on the state,” said Tuttle.
The only thing that could make the North Carolina tourism industry even happier is if Lionsgate decided to return to film the remaining installments.
“We’ve got a great relationship with Lionsgate and we are in talks with them right now,” said Syrett.