Experience ‘The Hunger Games’ for yourself at this theme park land

If they can turn the blood sport dystopian universe of “The Hunger Games” into a theme park land, can “Divergent,” “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld” be far behind?

The World of the Hunger Games themed land is set to officially open Friday within the Lionsgate Zone at the Motiongate Dubai theme park in the United Arab Emirates. Motiongate opened in December along with the Bollywood and Legoland theme parks. Six Flags Dubai is expected to join the Middle East resort project in 2019. Motiongate has offered periodic “soft opening” previews of the new “Hunger Games” land over the last few weeks.

Based on Suzanne Collins’ novel trilogy, “The Hunger Games” film franchise starring Jennifer Lawrence follows District 12 tribute Katniss Everdeen as she competes in an annual televised death match with other children from the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem.

The challenge of dreaming up the world’s first “Hunger Games” attractions and themed land fell to Falcon's Creative Group. The Orlando, Fla.-based themed entertainment design firm focused on taking visitors inside the immersive world of Panem rather than exploring the darker aspects of the deadly games, said Falcon’s executive producer, Jason Ambler. Falcon's Creative Group worked closely with Collins and Lionsgate to fill out and expand upon “The Hunger Games” world that isn’t necessarily represented in the books and films, Ambler said.

A giant Mockingjay pin welcomes visitors to the Hunger Games plaza, a central hub leading to the land’s two attractions.

The Panem Aerial Tour takes visitors on a hovercraft simulator ride over over the fictional nation’s 12 districts. An epic battle ensues when the hovercraft is spotted by Panem’s peacekeeper military force.

Panem Aerial Tour riders enter through the District 12 Hall of Justice, a familiar setting from the films. The 3-D flight simulator was built by Britain-based Holovis International with ride footage created by Falcon’s Creative Group.

The Capitol Bullet Train takes riders on a triple-launch roller coaster that travels forward twice and backward once. Built by Germany-based Mack Rides, the 85-foot-tall double-inversion coaster features a vertical loop, a 110-degree overbanked turn and a 90-degree reverse spike that briefly suspends riders facing straight down. The 1,870-foot-long ride reaches a top speed of 50 mph.

Coaster riders enter through the Hob black market in District 12 and exit into the austere and imposing Capitol. The Capitol is filled with billboards, branding and “Easter eggs” that will be instantly recognizable to die-hard fans of the movies.

Video screens inside the attractions will play messages filmed exclusively for the park by Effie Trinket (played by Elizabeth Banks), Caesar Flickerman (played by Stanley Tucci) and other characters from the movies.

Inside the land, the Panem Supply Co. retail store will sell “Hunger Games” merchandise while Peeta’s Bakery will offer baked goods, savory pies and drinks. An Effie Trinket walk-around character and coal miner streetmosphere entertainment will populate the land.

The Lionsgate Zone in Dubai features one other attraction from the Hollywood movie studio: A live stage show with singing, dancing and acrobatics based on the “Step Up” movies.

The World of the Hunger Games is the latest movie franchise to be turned into a theme park land, joining “Harry Potter,” “Cars,” “Avatar,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Toy Story,” “Shrek,” “Madagascar” and soon “Star Wars” and “Frozen.”

The Lionsgate Zone marks the first big foray into the theme park industry for the studio, but it likely won’t be its last. Lionsgate has several other film franchises that could lend themselves to blockbuster themed lands and attractions. Falcon’s Creative Group is already “ideating” on expansion plans in Dubai with a Lionsgate team dedicated to theme park development, Ambler said.

Plans for a $600-million Lionsgate theme park outside Atlanta were put “on hold indefinitely” in December, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Georgia park’s operators hoped to feature attractions based on “The Hunger Games,” “Twilight,” “Divergent,” “The Expendables,” “Now You See Me” and “Step Up.”

A “Saw” roller coaster based on the Lionsgate horror franchise opened in 2009 at Thorpe Park in England, southwest of London.

Falcon’s Creative Group previously worked on the Curse of DarKastle dark ride at Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia, the TurtleTrek 3-D theater at SeaWorld Orlando in Florida, the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in China and the IMG Worlds of Adventure in Dubai.

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