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The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The 'tributes' are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is a 16 year-old girl from District 12, a coal-mining region and the poorest of the districts. This year is the 74th Hunger Games and during the Reaping, Katniss' younger sister, Primrose, is chosen as a tribute. Refusing to let her sister be taken, Katniss volunteers herself instead, becoming District 12's female tribute. The male tribute chosen is a baker's son named Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) who is later seen giving bread to Katniss to prevent her family from starving.
Despite the threat of the games, Katniss dreams of making a new life for herself and her family 'outside the fence' with her friend, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth). She tells him that she never wants children. Before she leaves, Katniss comforts her mother (Paula Malcomson) and tells her to stay strong for Primrose.
Katniss and Peeta are taken from their district by the gaudily dressed Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and travel to the Capitol. En route, they are fed rich food and treats but are disgusted by the amount of luxuries given to them and the occupants of the train while their families starve at home. They are introduced to their 'mentor' and a former winner of the Hunger Games, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) who appears to be a pessimistic alcoholic. Haymitch grabs a drink and food before leaving their train car. Katniss and Peeta later reunite with Haymitch in another car and he tells them that the key to survival is ensuring they are well liked by the public so that they may get sponsored. By having sponsors they will have more access to survival tools such as matches, knives, or even water.
When they arrive in the gleaming city of the Capitol, the train is greeted by a cheering crowd. Peeta waves to the residents but Katniss refuses to show herself. Haymitch warns her that she better hold on to her knife and that Peeta actually knows what he is doing by feeding the crowd. Katniss meets her stylist, Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), who tells her that, as tributes, they need to make an impression on the audience so they're remembered, especially by the sponsors. Cinna proclaims that someone as brave as Katniss should have a great costume for the Gala Entry Parade in which each pair of tributes wears an outfit reflecting their district's trade. Katniss and Peeta wear black costumes with actual fire to symbolize the coal-mining district they reside from. As Cinna hoped, they make a great impression on the audience. Peeta takes Katniss' hand and raises it into the air during the parade for more effect. After the parade the pair go to their penthouse.
The tributes under-go basic weaponry and combat training including the use of knives, swords, and bows. In spite of this training their trainer stresses that survival skills should not be underestimated as exposure and infection can kill just as effectively as any sword. One tribute named Cato...