This Google Maps image shows what Clayton County International Park’s The Beach looked like during filming of cornucopia scenes for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” last fall. The movie opens in theaters Friday. (Photo Courtesy of Google Maps)
JONESBORO — Clayton County International Park’s The Beach will get to shine on the big screen this weekend when “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” opens in movie theaters Friday.
Of course, residents may not recognize it. They will have to look beyond the digitally-inserted jungle and imagine the beach’s signature water fountain to see it as their local swimming hole. They will also have to pay close attention, because some of the water scenes were also filmed in Hawaii and they were made to look alike. Nothing that indicates it is really a water park will be on screen, according to county officials.
But Clayton County Economic Development Director Grant Wainscott, who got to be on the set for some of the filming, was able to pick out the water park when he got to attend an exclusive sneak peak of the movie Monday night.
“We were used throughout the second half of the movie,” Wainscott said.”Our whole part is green-screened to look like the jungles of Hawaii, but heck yeah I can tell it’s our water park. It’s huge. Not only is this one of the biggest productions to ever be filmed in Georgia, these guys had a specific need and we were able to meet it.”
Clayton County’s economic development department and other Atlanta-area locations used in the move are expected to announce the opening of a “Hunger Games” film tourism trail today. The trail will take fans of the films — and the books they are based upon — to the different sites where scenes from “Catching Fire” were filmed. The trail will continue after the movie leaves theaters, he said.
“Fans are going to get to walk on the actual sand used in the movie, and we’ll have markers out with text and photos so people will be able to tell what was filmed there, and they’ll be able to see some of the props used in the movie,” said Wainscott.
The first tour bus is expected to arrive in Clayton County this weekend, he said. Wainscott added it will be a prelude to the Clayton County Film Experience Trail expected to open in January. That trail will provide movie aficionados an opportunity to see the different sites used around the county in various films.
The Beach was used by producers to film some of the watery cornucopia scenes for the film. Although the set was closed off from prying eyes during filming, Google Maps captured an aerial shot of the set. It shows the futuristic silver cornucopia with two rows of rocks jutting out from it and the stands where the tributes stand before they dive into the water. The cornucopia scenes had to be green screened because they take places in the waters on the edge of a jungle in the book.
“It’s fairly easy to just shoot a couple of scenes in a house somewhere, but it takes a heck of a lot of work to take a water park in Jonesboro over the winter and make it look like a tropical paradise in Hawaii,” said Wainscott. “But, that’s the magic of movies.”
The two hour and 26-minute long film stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks and Lenny Kravitz. The film is directed by Francis Lawrence with the screenplay written by Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt.
The film is based off the second book in Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” trilogy. The book version of “Catching Fire” sold 50 million copies in the U.S., according to Lionsgate, which is releasing the film and co-produced it with Color Force.
“Catching Fire” is one of two big Hollywood film franchises that came to Clayton County last fall. At the same time the film was being shot at the park, scenes from “Scary Movie 5” featuring Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan were being shot in an old Lake City Ingles building that had been converted into a temporary sound stage.
But county officials couldn’t admit film crews were in the county for either movie at the time. “Catching Fire” was listed as “The Idiom” in county documents, but a search of casting websites quickly revealed “The Idiom” was the working title for “The Hunger Games” sequel.
“We weren’t allowed to say anything until last Friday,” said Wainscott.
Clayton News Daily reported in September 2012 that the film’s production company, Project GCX, agreed to pay the county $80,000 to film at the park. It also agreed to pay off-duty county police officers $45 per hour to provide security, and to pay a Clayton County Water Authority employee $75 per hour to drain and re-fill one of the lakes in the park.
Clayton County economic development officials now want residents to hit movie theaters this weekend and Wainscott, of course, said his office would prefer residents see it at a movie theater in the county, but he’s not twisting any arm to make that happen.
“We want them to be proud of this and we want them to go see the movie,” Wainscott said. “This is a big deal for Clayton County.”