In Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games,” the blockbuster young-adult novel of televised blood sport in a dystopian future, the titular contest’s teen combatants face two crucibles.
There is, of course, the all-out battle to the death that comprises most of the narrative’s action. But before the fight gets under way, the contestants must also brave a pregame media assault that echoes, among other contemporary media trends, reality television, Oprah-style confessional interviews and that eternal quest for total narrative oversight from the p.r. department. On Tuesday night at the School of Visual Arts Theater in New York, the young actors of the book’s inevitable on-screen adaptation went through a scaled-back bit of the latter at a screening hosted by The Cinema Society and Calvin Klein Collection.
“I mean, there were a couple moments when I was reading the book and she was forced into these clothes and makeup and didn’t feel like herself and then had to get on camera and make people like her, where I was like: ‘Huh, I know how that feels,’ ” said Jennifer Lawrence, who stars as the book’s fierce heroine Katniss Everdeen, as she walked the red carpet. “But, fortunately, I’m not dealing with a life-or-death situation.”
The actress and her co-leads, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, were coming off a tour of premieres for the much-hyped film that has taken them from Los Angeles to London to Paris and then New York. The film’s studio, Lionsgate, threw in an anticipation-baiting mall tour for good measure.
“They definitely give us talking points and want us to word things a certain way: ‘If somebody says this, maybe try to turn them here like this,’ ” Hutcherson laughed of his real-life media trainers.
The marketing blitz seemed to have done the trick in New York. Sprinkled among the usual New York premiere crowd, one that contained the likes of Zoe Kravitz, Hilary Rhoda, Seth Meyers, Penn Badgley and Alan Cumming, were some very excitable tween prep-schoolers. After the credits rolled and moviegoers had collected their cell phones — checked earlier in the evening to prevent any piracy — a large crowd of young autograph seekers stood on the 23rd Street sidewalk. At an after party for the screening at The Top of the Standard later in the evening, the bartenders were checking IDs.