Officials expect 'Hunger Games' to feed NC tourism

Posted March 14, 2012 11:07 a.m. EDT
Updated March 14, 2012 12:53 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina is poised to reap major dividends from tourism with the opening of “The Hunger Games,” the highest-profile movie ever made in the state, officials said Wednesday.

Shot on locations and sets from Concord to Barnardsville, the film is based on the opening novel in a wildly popular futuristic trilogy by Suzanne Collins. With 23.5 million books in print in the U.S., the trilogy has attracted an avid following that aligns with the prime 12- to 29-year-old movie audience, officials said.

“The movie is already a winner for us,” Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco said in a statement, noting the filmmakers spent more than $60 million in North Carolina.

"Now, fans are eager to come see the locations and go to the restaurants, neighborhoods and other places the stars visited," he said. "The money they spend here will be a second payoff for taxpayers.”

The state Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development sees the same potential for “The Hunger Games" as the wave of tourism the vampire romance "Twilight" generated in Washington state in 2008.

New travel tools at VisitNC.com will guide visitors to film sites, star hangouts, and places that connect with the characters and other elements of the novel.

“Reading the book, we realized that North Carolina offers visitors a rich, authentic experience,” Lynn Minges, assistant secretary for tourism, marketing and global branding, said in a statement.

The forests old mill villages of western North Carolina and wilderness survival training at Nantahala Outdoor Center and the U.S. National Whitewater Center help visitors relate to the film, Minges said.

"The Hunger Games" underscores the value of new incentives state lawmakers put in place to attract film and television productions to North Carolina, officials said.

“The incentive was a major factor in the filmmakers’ decision to come here,” Aaron Syrett, director of the North Carolina Film Office, said in a statement. “The incentive completed the package, which included the locations and the state’s well-developed infrastructure."

“The Hunger Games" helped the state film industry generate a record $220 million in spending for 2011, the incentive’s first year, Syrett said.

“We’ll be even happier if it helps tourism reach new heights for 2012 and beyond,” he said.