Grandmother sees 'Hunger Games' at midnight movie

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 23, 2012

By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLIS — Kathy Cornell may have been one of the only grandmothers at the midnight premiere of “The Hunger Games” at the Gem Theatre in Kannapolis.
But that didn’t stop Cornell and three friends from enjoying the wildly popular movie, filmed in North Carolina and based on a the best-selling young-adult trilogy by author Suzanne Collins.
And Cornell crossed something off her bucket list — a midnight movie premiere.
“I’ve never been to one, and I’ve always wanted to,” she said.
Cornell, who has read two books in the science fiction series and plans to read the third, praised the movie as true to the book and said fans at the Gem enthusiastically embraced the film.
“Everyone was very involved,” Cornell said. “They obviously enjoyed it.”
She and about 500 others at the Gem watched the two-hour, 22-minute epic tale of 16-year-old heroine Katniss Everdeen going from survivalist to national symbol.
“The Hunger Games was so amazing,” tweeted Emily Jude of Salisbury at 3:24 a.m. “I wish I really was Katniss Everdeen.”
The Gem, which seats more than 900 people including the balcony, had between 375 and 400 advance ticket sales, the most ever, owner Steve Morris said.
While Cornell enjoyed the film, her favorite part wasn’t on the screen.
“I think the movie is bringing young people back to books, and that’s the very, very most important thing,” she said.
Although the Rowan Public Library has more than 50 copies of the first book, there is a still a waiting list of six people.
Joey Childress recognized someone in the movie — himself. The 20-year-old Kannapolis man, who drives the children’s train at Concord Mills Mall, worked as an extra in the film for five days, earning $400.
Childress had not read the books and didn’t know what to expect when he sat down at the Gem for the premiere.
“The way it was filmed, I thought it was going to be a boring movie,” he said. “But it was pretty good.”
Childress recognized himself and brother Jonathan Childress, 18, several times in the reaping scene, where Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place in a cruel reality show where children fight to the death.
“I think the director did a great job,” said Childress, who now plans to read the trilogy.
Roommate Kane Zittlow said although he has not read the books, he could keep up with the action.
“It was just an awesome movie,” Zittlow said.
When he saw his friends, Zittlow said he thought, “holy crap, they are actually on the screen.”
Many fans are already eagerly awaiting the second movie, set to begin filming in September.
“Hunger Games was pretty sick,” tweeted Jared Crabtree at 2:33 a.m. “Definitely won’t be the last one they make.”
Cornell said she recognized several North Carolina locations, including scenes shot in Asheville and Shelby and at the Philip Morris plant in Concord.
During filming, an estimated $60 million was spent in the state, along with roughly 5,000 people employed.
As Morris watched the lengthy credits roll at the end of the film, he said all he could think about were dollar signs.
“Look at that payroll,” he said. “Those people were eating here in our restaurants and staying in our hotels. Most of the set and props were built here, and that means everything from lumber to batteries.
“It was a big plus to our local economy.”
The movie will play once nightly, four times on Saturdays and three times on Sundays until at least April 12 at the Gem, where shows before 6 p.m. are $3 for everyone. Shows after 6 p.m. are $4 for adults and $3 for children and seniors.
This weekend, the Gem is participating in the Hunger Games Fights Hunger food drive and will accept nonperishable food donations for Cooperative Christian Ministries.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

Some local ‘Hunger Games’ tweets  

“I’m not pressed to see the Hunger Games.” Twon

“The only reason I wanna see the Hunger Games is because of the two gorgeous boys that play in it.” Haleigh

“My the odds be ever in my favor so I can somehow get a ticket for the Hunger Games this weekend.”  
Kelly Glasson

“Me covering the Hunger Games phenomenon, kind of like Abe Lincoln covering a space shuttle launch.” David Joel Whisenant

“I swear the Hunger Games isn’t going to top today’s sweet 16 as best event.” 
Elbert J. Moulton