'Hunger' growing for fans of violent book series

Published: Wednesday, March 21 2012 5:00 p.m. MDT

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) in THE HUNGER GAMES.

Photo credit: Murray Close, Murray Close

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Top list: 'Hunger Games' not the only dark movie made especially for kids

SALT LAKE CITY — Fans of Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games" series will get their first look of the violent dystopian world of Panem when the movie opens in local theaters at midnight Thursday.

Marissa Schiffman, a 16-year-old and junior at Riverton High School, will be one of those fans sacrificing sleep — on a school night — Thursday. She first read "The Hunger Games" two years ago and said she didn't love the violence, but loved the book.

"It was a little bit disturbing but you get over it because the rest of the book is so good," she said.

She said she is worried about how the violence will be portrayed on screen but not enough to keep her away, especially since it will be her first midnight premiere.

"I'm good at closing my eyes," she said.

Schiffman will be among thousands expected to see the film over the weekend. Online ticket-selling website Fandango announced Tuesday that the first movie in the presumed franchise has sold more advance tickets than any other non-sequel ever. Entertainment Weekly reported that Fandango expects "The Hunger Games" to crack the site's top-5 advance ticket sales list before the lights dim Thursday at midnight showings across the country. The young adult novel-turned-blockbuster will feel right at home on that list, which is currently made up of the last three "Twilight" films and parts one and two of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

The book enjoys juggernaut-sized popularity, but its violent content — where teenage children are forced to fight to the death — has often raised eyebrows and speculation has surrounded the content of the film adaptation since it was announced.

The movie received a rating of PG-13 from the Motion Picture Association of America for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images, all involving teens. In the United Kingdom, seven seconds were cut from the film to secure a 12A rating, the British equivalent of a PG-13.

Kids-in-Mind.com, which partners with the Deseret News for a detailed break down of movie content, will release its description and rating of the "Hunger Games" content.

Marissa Schiffman's mother, Lois Schiffman, also read the books and said that while the story is dark, she does not find it objectionable. She said that teenagers are often exposed to needlessly inappropriate content in books, movies and television but the violence in "The Hunger Games" is used to start a conversation about society.

"It gets people talking and it gets people reading," Schiffman said. "That's my proudest mommie moment, that my kids are readers."

The independent, non-profit group Common Sense Media rated the film as appropriate for ages 13 and older, but also adds a "pause" to their review, which encourages parents to consider the effect the content will have on their children as individuals instead of an age group. Betsy Bozdech, managing editor for Common Sense Media, said that children respond uniquely to tense and scary situations but added that the movie is a faithful adaptation of the book, without any Hollywood "sucker punches" thrown in.

"It's not gratuitous, it for the purpose of telling a story," she said. "There's no joy in the killing."

Bozdech said that watching film depictions of violence is inherently a more visceral experience than reading a book. In the case of "The Hunger Games," she said director Gary Ross cuts away from the deaths quickly without lingering or focusing on gore.

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