Warning: important plot point ahead.
Throughout the first book in The Hunger Games trilogy, the 24 teenage boy and girl tributes competing in the fight-to-the-death tournament that’s broadcast live on national television might receive care packages parachuted into the arena from interested viewers.
After reading the popular young adult novel, Caroline Hudacsek, assistant manager at Cranberry Cinemas, liked the concept so much she brainstormed it into a food drive to benefit a local charity.
“I thought it would be an easy tie-in with the movie,” she said.
In preparation for tonight’s midnight premiere of The Hunger Games, the theater is collecting non-perishable food items to benefit Gleaners Food Bank of Cranberry, which provides food to township residents in need.
Until April 11, moviegoers may drop their donations into a giant crate topped with a parachute in the center of the theater’s lobby.
After finding the parachute online at an Army Navy store, Hudacsek and her Army veteran boyfriend attached it to the cinema’s ceiling. The staff helped build the life-size crate—made from wooden delivery pallets—and decorate it with a Mockingjay symbol.
For those not familiar with the series, the Mockingjay symbolizes heroine Katniss Everdeen’s resistance to the oppressive Capitol in The Hunger Games’ dystopian setting.
Movie fans who donate two items to the food bank will receive a free 32 oz. popcorn courtesy of Cranberry Cinemas.
For tonight’s premiere, the Hunger Games will be shown in two of the theater’s screening rooms. The 12:05 a.m. show already is sold out, but Hudacsek said tickets still are available for the 12:10 a.m. viewing.
As readers of the books already know, a “reaping” is held every year to chose two tributes (a boy and a girl) from each of the 12 districts surrounding the evil Capitol to compete in the survivor-style Hunger Games. The last tribute left standing is crowned the game's winner, and his or her family receives a lifetime supply of food.
Cranberry Cinemas will have its reaping at tonight’s premiere, but in this case, being chosen is a good thing. The winners—one boy and one girl—will receive a Mockingjay pin, a Hunger Games poster and two movie passes.
The theater staff also will compete in its version of The Hunger Games while selling certain food items. The employees are divided into four teams, and the team that sells the least of the items each week will be eliminated, Hudacsek said.
This isn’t the first time the theater has celebrated the release of movies expected to dominate at the box office.
For the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in July, the staff decorated the lobby to look like King’s Cross Station, the place where students catch the magical Hogwarts Express to the witchcraft and wizarding school.
For Twilight: Breaking Dawn—Part 1 in November, the theater offered twi-hards a chance to win posters from the movie with a corn hole tournament.
“It was crazy here,” Hudacsek said.
Expectations also are great for The Hunger Games, although Hudacsek said she expects momentum to span upward once fans of the book view the movie.
“I think the die-hards are going to come first, and then they are going to tell their friends about it,” she said.
Have you purchased your tickets yet? To buy passes for The Hunger Games at Cranberry Cinemas, click here.