'Hunger Games' Rome Premiere Attracts Huge Mob of Fans

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"

The debut for the anticipated blockbuster is creating a stronger buzz than any other event in the festival's eight-year history.

ROME – The Rome Film Festival apparently is starving for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

The film, which will have its world festival premiere at the Rome fest later Thursday, has the whole festival abuzz -- most likely more than any other event in its eight-year history. Hundreds of fans of the films were lined up at least 16 hours ahead of time in order to secure a good spot along the red carpet for when protagonists Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, and director Francis Lawrence pass by on their way to the screening.

The film had its world premiere in London Monday, but the Rome screening will be the second time the follow-up to last year's blockbuster The Hunger Games will be screened for the public.

It will go into wide release in the U.S. and Italy Nov. 22.

"This is the biggest thing I've ever been part of," said 18-year-old student Nello Romano, who said he skipped school to wait for the film's stars.

Angela Esposito, 18, agreed: "I know this is something I'll remember for my whole life," she said.

FILM REVIEW: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Earlier in the day, the film's press conference attracted a standing-room-only crowd, with many rushing the stage to secure autographs. Hemsworth and Hutcherson stuck around to sign things for fans, but Lawrence, sporting a short, very blonde haircut, slipped away.

During the briefing,  Lawrence was asked how she handled the pressure of being the face of the popular franchise.

"It may sound like a cliche, but it doesn't bother me," she said. "I love my job and I love cinema. Whatever pressure there is doesn't bother me."

The Rome festival got underway last Friday and concludes Sunday.

Ornella Sgroi contributed to this report.

Twitter: @EricJLyman