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When it comes to the official opening of Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games, the phrase “highly anticipated” is an understatement.
Interest in the film is soaring ahead of its March 23 debut, with Fandango reporting nearly 2,000 showtimes sold out in advance and Imax Theaters adding 3 a.m. showings after selling out 150 midnight screenings. Tracking data suggests that the film could even out earn The Twilight Saga’s fourth installment, Breaking Dawn Part 1, which opened to $138.1 million in November.
With minimal similarities in their storylines — save for a female heroine and her two male love interests — The Hunger Games shares little in common with The Twilight Saga. Still, the two have been compared time and time again with many proclaiming that the most recent teen-friendly fantasy flick will be “the next Twilight.”
“I don’t know why they exist to be honest with you, except that they’re both popular,” director Gary Ross told The Hollywood Reporter of the comparisons. “I think that Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins, who are friends, would be the first to say that this really isn’t very similar. They couldn’t be two more different movies and two more different series of novels.”
“But I think when people compare them, they just mean that it’s popular,” he continued. “And that people have gravitated to it and that there’s anticipation. That’s something we’re obviously grateful for.”
The film never strays far from Collins’ original narrative, with THR film critic Todd McCarthy describing it as “an amply faithful adaptation.” For Ross, the focus remained mostly on translating the book’s tonality to the big screen.
“Suzanne took this seriously, the fans take it seriously,” he said. “Katniss is very real to them. I think it was very important that we take it seriously. Yes it’s entertaining, but it’s also very emotional and it’s also very real and you connect to it. I think above all else, I wanted to keep it real.”
Next up is Catching Fire, the second installment in Collins’ trilogy. As THR previously revealed, the film’s three leads, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutchinson and Liam Hemsworth, are all signed on to see the franchise to its conclusion. Ross recently admitted that he is also attached to helm the next chapter in what is expected to be a four-part film series.
Asked how much he had thought about the future films while creating the first, Ross said: “Not the next three, but certainly the next one. I mean, a lot of stuff with Donald Sutherland, a lot of the president snow stuff, we added some stuff in the first [movie] that kind of knitted these together a little bit.”
“But it’s a pretty good standalone narrative,” he added.
The Hunger Games opens Friday, March 23 with projections as high as $130 mil to $140 mil for its debut. Watch THR’s full interview with Ross in the video above, and click here for more from the film’s Hollywood premiere.
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