March 21 2012 12:00 AM

Much-anticipated movie is already selling out shows

May the odds be ever in your favor — when it comes to getting a good seat for “The Hunger Games” this weekend.

The long-awaited film debuts in theaters nationwide on Friday, and box office anticipation has immediately conjured up comparisons to the "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" franchises. Local IMAX shows are already sold out, and fans of the Suzanne Collins books be may coming to the show dressed in costume.

NCG Eastwood Cinemas and Celebration Cinema Lansing both expect packed houses on Thursday for midnight screenings. As of Monday afternoon, two-thirds of NCG´s weekend shows were selling out, while a manager at Celebration said the IMAX theater alone sold out faster than it had for any “Twilight” or “Harry Potter” film. 

No doubt much of the hype can be credited to the methodical marketing campaign “Hunger” distributor Lionsgate launched a year ago. But many viewers, while aware of the hype, attributed their excitement for the film to word of mouth from friends or the popularity of the novels. 

Felisha Powell, a student at University of Michigan-Flint on Lansing Community College’s campus, says she plans to see the film before reading the book. But she’s intrigued by the premise of the story, which she describes as “new and fresh.”

“It’s not like the story you hear: Guy falls in love with a girl. Girl falls in love with a guy and they get married,” she said. “The main theme is not love between a girl and a guy. It’s love of family.” 

“Hunger Games” heroine Katniss Everdeen, who lives in the futuristic dystopia of Panem, barely resembles Bella Swan of “Twilight.” After bravely taking her younger sister Prim’s place in the annual televised fight to the death called the Hunger Games, Katniss must rely on her judgment and well-honed hunting skills to survive — without the aid of a superhuman vampire boyfriend. 

A love triangle of sorts develops over the course of the three books, but Michigan State University English program alumni Jennifer Spenny, who has read the entire trilogy, agrees the romance is secondary to Katniss´ struggle to save her family.

“I think (Katniss) was just as uncomfortable with the love story as the readers were,” Spenny said. “It wasn’t part of her story and she wasn’t ready to fall in love.” 

Spenny admits that as much as she enjoyed the books, she’s keeping her expectations for the film relatively low.

“I’m looking for the essence of the novel on film,” Spenny said. “I’m not looking for certain characters or certain plot devices. What is the book trying to get across? Does the movie get that same message across?”

Claire Buitendorp, who graduated from LCC’s fashion design program, says she’s more interested in the look of one of Katniss’ key outfits: a dress enveloped in roaring flames.

“I was really interested in how they were going to portray their opening ceremony ensembles. They talk about (the costume) through the whole book. She’s ´on fire.´ They have to actively show that. With all of these improvements in special effects or even with things like lighting that you can put in clothes, I want to see more dazzle. That’s really important for me.”

For Berkley Sorrells, a 6th grader at Whitehills Elementary School, getting through the book before seeing the movie is important. Even though all of her friends already read “The Hunger Games,” she didn’t officially start reading the book until this week.

“There were still 17 holds on (the book) at the East Lansing Public library,” saids Sorrells, who purchased her own copy this week. “I only got through the first chapter, and they said Prim was going to be part of the Hunger Games. Are you serious?”

Another fan hooked.