Fans of the movie series “The Hunger Games” got a chance to hang with the artists of the film series Tuesday night when “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” star Liam Hemsworth and director Francis Lawrence visited Knoxville.
The two were in town for a special premiere of the film at the Regal Pinnacle 18 as part of a benefit for Variety the Children’s Charity. The East Tennessee chapter of the organization is sponsored by the Knoxville-based Regal Entertainment Group, the largest theater chain in the United States.
Hemsworth and Lawrence walked a red carpet and greeted fans both inside at a V.I.P. area and outside, where fans lined up to catch a glimpse of the star.
Crowds began gathering before 1 p.m. for the event.
Wrylin Snodgrass, 22, and Emily Oaks, 19, came from Clinton for the event.
“I’m here because I heard Liam is single now!” Snodgrass said.
Madelyn Jeffers, 12, admitted that Hemsworth might be a little old for her, but, “he’s gorgeous.” More than anything, she hoped to get an autograph.
Chances of it were good, Hemsworth seemed far more interested in talking to fans than making speeches. Introduced to different assembled audiences he spoke only a couple of sentences, telling the worthiness of the cause and thanking the crowd. Visiting with fans, though, he truly seemed to enjoy talking and shaking hands.
Before going out to the red carpet to talk with the crowd, Hemsworth and Lawrence sat in an interview area.
“I feel very strongly about doing anything to help kids grow up in a good, safe environment and live their dreams,” Hemsworth said. “My father worked in child protection all his life.”
Hemsworth, who is the ambassador for the Australian Childhood Foundation, grew up near Melbourne, Australia, where his father was a social services worker. Hemsworth and his two brothers, Chris and Luke, all moved to the U.S. to pursue their acting careers. Chris is the star of the film “Thor: The Dark World.”
Lawrence, who did not direct the first “Hunger Games,” but has been contracted for the rest, said inheriting a talented cast and crew was great.
“It is an amazing group of people,” he said.
“It’s one of the best sets I’ve ever worked on,” added Hemsworth. “Everybody got along really well.”
Hemsworth, who recently ended his engagement with singer Miley Cyrus, said that lots of things written about him were wrong:
“Lots of stuff on the Internet, but I don’t buy into that too much. There’s all these Internet gossip sites where they just write whatever they want,” he said.
Hemsworth and Lawrence are already working on the next installments of “The Hunger Games,” “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay,” which will be released in two parts.
“I’ll be working on that with editing and everything until 2015,” said Lawrence.
Carol Fusco, executive director of Variety the Children’s Charity of East Tennessee, said Tuesday’s event raised more than $530,000, which is $55,000 more than the next most successful premiere event.
Most of the money raised comes from corporate sponsorships, with between $5,000 and $10,000 coming for the sales of individual tickets. Still, it’s an even that’s not so exclusive that only the most well-heeled can attend.
Russ Nunley, vice-president of marketing and communications for Regal Entertainment Group, said the company was very thankful that the film production company Lion’s Gate gave them the chance to have such a popular film for the premiere.
“It feels good to bring something like this to Knoxville,” said Nunley. “A lot of our families and friends and neighbors get to be a part of some Hollywood excitement.”
Catching Fire screening at Regal's Pinnacle theatre