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Could ‘Hunger Games' Get a Theme Park?

The movie studio behind "The Hunger Games" says it has fielded inquiries for the theme-park rights to the popular franchise, though at least one of the industry's biggest players says it isn't interested.

During a conference call last week to discuss their quarterly earnings, executives with Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. told analysts that the company has "been approached in two different territories" about theme-park opportunities for "The Hunger Games." They did not elaborate.

"The Hunger Games" is the first book in a popular science-fiction trilogy aimed primarily at teenagers and written by Suzanne Collins. A Lions Gate movie based on the novel was released last year and grossed nearly $700 million worldwide, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.

Lions Gate will release a sequel based on the second book, "Catching Fire," later this month. The company plans to split the final book, "Mockingjay," into two films, which are expected to arrive in theaters in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Proven book and film franchises are a coveted commodity among theme parks, which routinely spend tens of millions of dollars -- and sometimes more than $100 million -- on a single new ride. Intellectual properties that have an already established fan base can help ease some of the financial risk.

In recent years, Comcast Corp.'s Universal Parks & Resorts won the theme-park rights to the "Harry Potter" books and films, while Walt Disney Co. has bought Lucasfilm -- giving it the rights to "Star Wars" -- and acquired the park rights for "Avatar." There have long been rumors that both companies have looked at "The Lord of the Rings," too.

But "The Hunger Games" could prove to be an odder fit with family-focused parks. The novels are set in a grim future in which a totalitarian government stages annual games, with children from its various provinces forced to fight to the death.

A spokesman for Orlando-based SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. -- which owns 11 parks across the U.S., including marine parks in three states and Busch Gardens theme parks in two states -- said Thursday that the company has not discussed "The Hunger Games" with Lions Gate. Its biggest current third-party licenses include "Sesame Street."

"Whoever is interested in a theme-park license for that, it isn't us," SeaWorld spokesman Fred Jacobs said.

"The Hunger Games" also would seem to be an unlikely target for Disney, whose core audience is families with young children. A spokeswoman for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts declined to comment.

Among companies with major presence in Orlando, the most plausible fit for the franchise would likely be with Universal Parks & Resorts. The Universal theme parks generally target a slightly older demographic than SeaWorld or Disney, relying more on height-restricted thrill rides, edgier intellectual properties such as the Simpsons, King Kong and Terminator, and adult-oriented events such as Halloween Horror Nights.

A spokesman for Universal would not comment Thursday.

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