‘Hunger Games’ fans devour film’s world premiere

LOS ANGELES — When it comes to predicting the big-screen success of "The Hunger Games," the fans have spoken. Actually, make that cheered.

Hundreds of fans who won tickets to Monday’s world premiere cheered for hours before any stars arrived, screamed when they did and kept the applause going right through the film.

"I thought it was amazing," said Ruzena Zatko, 28, a fan of "The Hunger Games" books who drove from Las Vegas and spent two nights’ camped out in front of the Nokia Theatre to win passes to the premiere. "He stayed true to the book."

Based on the best-seller by Suzanne Collins, "The Hunger Games" stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth as teens fighting for survival in a government-controlled world that hosts annual televised games in which young participants are forced to kill their opponents. It opens in theaters March 23.

Fans Ariel Pemberton and Amanda Shultz loved the book so much they doubted the film could match it, but they came away impressed with its look and feel.

Pemberton said it was "way more emotional" than the book, while Shultz enjoyed seeing Collins’ post-apocalyptic world come to life: "We all had different ideas what it looked like, so to see it was so cool."

Box-office prognosticators say anticipation for "The Hunger Games" matches and may even surpass that for the "Twilight" movies. (The last "Twilight" film is due in the fall.) They predict "The Hunger Games" could bring in more than $100 million in ticket sales during its opening weekend.

Some have compared the two series. Each is aimed at young adults and features a female heroine with two potential suitors. But fans say the similarities end there.

"This doesn’t focus on the love triangle," said 22-year-old Stephanie Zatko, a "Twilight" fan whose sister-in-law convinced her to check out "The Hunger Games." "She’s actually doing something. Bella just sits there."

"Katniss is a stronger female," said Alyssa Walker, 20, who read all three books in the series. "The guys are a thing, too, but she does her own thing."

Still, some in the crowd held homemade posters declaring themselves members of Team Peeta or Team Gale — Katniss’ two prospects.

"Hottest thing since sliced bread: Peeta," read one sign. "Gale ensnared my heart," read another.

About 400 fans lined the black carpet where the film’s stars arrived and sat alongside them at the premiere. Hundreds more lined up behind barricades across the street, toting cameras and signs.

"The passion of these fans is unlike anything I have ever been involved with," said Elizabeth Banks, who plays Effie Trinket in the film. "For me the biggest star here is Suzanne Collins, who wrote the books and is the creator of this entire universe, all this pandemonium."

Director Gary Ross thanked the author from the stage before introducing the film’s stars, saying, "None of us would be here without the wonderful, brilliant mind and imagination of Suzanne Collins."

Meanwhile, as the premiere wrapped, Zatko prepared for the long drive back to Las Vegas.

"We’re totally sleep deprived," she said. "But it was all worth it."

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