The young stars of "The Hunger Games" may remember the blockbuster movie as the one that propelled their careers to the next level. But the biggest breakout star of the "The Hunger Games" may well turn out to be the state of North Carolina.
With $152.5 million opening weekend at the box office, the movie based on the New York Times bestseller by Suzanne Collins had the third best opening weekend of all time (and the best ever opening for a non-sequel), according to Hollywood.com. And its frenzied fans are already showing up at movie locations around the state to see where scenes were shot. "People are obsessed with 'The Hunger Games,' " says Marnee Revri, a Raleigh-based travel agent affiliated with Frosch Entertainment, who booked travel for the movie's cast and crew and blogged about it. "I think there will be a bigger interest in people coming to visit, the same as the 'Twilight' movies. Kids are going to want to (see) where it was filmed."
Find Katniss Everdeen's hidden pond
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Many scenes were filmed in the woods of DuPont State Forest, a 10,400-acre wilderness where waterfalls, lakes and fishing streams made ideal settings for the movie's outdoor scenes. Fans are likely to follow forest trails in search of character Katniss Everdeen's pond, the bottom of Triple Falls waterfall and the remnants of the fireball sequence. A hike to Hooker Falls, Triple Falls and High Falls is part of the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy's eight-hike challenge. Rated "easy," the 2.6-mile waterfall hike has an elevation gain of 160 feet. (Triple Falls also stars in Michael Mann's movie "The Last of the Mohicans.")
It's true that the abandoned Henry River Mill Village, about 70 miles from Asheville in the small town of Hildebran, was home to the film's "District 12" Mellark family bakery and the Everdeens' shanty. But it's private property -- so just look as you're driving by -- and respect any "No Trespassing" signs.
Party where the stars hung out
Parents of tweens and teens on this movie tour, take note. The movie's stars spent their after-work hours in Asheville, a town you'll enjoy independent of your child's movie obsession. With its funky architecture, independent spirit and thriving restaurant and brewing scene, artsy Asheville didn't need a movie to confirm its tourist appeal. Actors reportedly dined at the Laughing Seed Café, Lexington Avenue Brewery, Wasabi and the Southern Kitchen and Bar. They also stopped by Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, the local independent bookseller. Cast member Woody Harrelson enjoyed the 46-foot rock-climbing wall at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, which served as the capitol in the film. (The center will host the U.S. Olympic Trials for canoe slalom April 12-14.) Harrelson also enjoyed playing chess with locals at Amélie's French bakery in Charlotte.
Not a "Hunger Games" fan?
You could still be inspired to learn some post-apocalyptic survival skills. If you're in decent physical shape, learn to survive in the wilderness by taking courses at Nantahala Outdoor Center. Summer programs at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown include courses on cooking over an open fire, cooking with wild edibles, beekeeping and woodworking. If you prefer the work of Patrick Swayze, Kevin Costner or Daniel Day Lewis, you're in luck. "Dirty Dancing," "Bull Durham" and "The Last of the Mohicans" were all shot in North Carolina. While your younger family members obsess on "The Hunger Games," you can celebrate the 25th anniversary of "Dirty Dancing" this year with the 3rd annual Dirty Dancing Festival at Lake Lure (August 17-19).
Fans of the "Ironman" series can expect the third installment of the movie, which is in pre-production in Wilmington, to draw attention to that location. And with North Carolina's tax incentives for productions filmed in the state, expect more movie and television shows to bring their projects there.
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