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Hunger Games attracts tourists to NC

If you’ve seen the block-buster hit The Hunger Games, you might have recognized the wooded landscapes of Western North Carolina.

The state was the film’s setting of a futuristic dystopian nation, where children are selected to compete in a game of survival.

The film brought in about $150 million at the box office during it’s opening weekend, and fans are now rushing to the state to visit shooting locations and areas where the actors spent time filming.

The film, based on the first of a trilogy by Suzanne Collins, was shot last year in Asheville and Charlotte areas. And the sequel is rumored to return to North Carolina next year.

Amanda Baranski, executive assistant for the western N.C. Film Commission, said the N.C. Film Office has projected that almost $60 million was generated during production. As the state continues to face potential budget shortfalls, fan tourism could be a beneficial uplift for the economy.

“I think that (fan tourism) will be a lasting economic impact,” Baranski said. “After the film has played and people see the thing, they’re going to want to come here.”

Prentiss Brewer, visitor services manager with the Brevard and Transylvania Chamber of Commerce, locations where parts of the movie were filmed, said visitation to the county’s tourism website has more than doubled recently, and she expects tourism to continue to grow.

“We do expect to see a pretty substantial leap in the numbers,” she said. “Summer is normally busy anyway, and we’re expecting it to be the blockbuster year.”

Tammy Hopkins, co-creator of the private company Hunger Games Fan Tours, said fans have been asking her about tours since last year.

The company’s other co-creator, Leigh Trapp ,was previously involved with tours based on the Twilight and Harry Potter movies.

Hopkins and Trapp offer day and weekend excursions at DuPont State Recreational Forest, where scenes of the games — particularly scenes in which protagonist Katniss sleeps in the tree tops — were filmed. The company also offers opportunities for fans to participate in activities based on the movie.

Fans who take part in the tour can learn survival skills and compete in time trials, resulting in a winner. Both creators are expected to be interviewed today on the MSNBC Today show about the Hunger Games fan tours.

The tourism division of the N.C. Department of Commerce has created a four-day, self-guided itinerary for sightseers to visit shooting locations and star hangouts from production.

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