UCSB student Amy Maldonado secured her space at 8:30 Thursday morning as the second person in line outside the Metropolitan Camino Real Cinema in Goleta, where fans of The Hunger Games awaited the midnight premiere.

About 300 people sat and stood in a line that extended to Hollister Brewing Co., and three theaters were sold out.

Maldonado, who was later joined by two friends, said she was curious to see how the movie compared to the book.

“I read the books about two years ago, and I loved them. I got all of my friends into it,” said Maldonado, who had been waiting in line for more than 12 hours. “The best part (about getting here early) is that you don’t have to push through people in line and you can pick your seats. I’m so excited. You could say I’m a little crazy.”

Fans were huddled up in sweatshirts and blankets along the Camino Real Marketplace sidewalk. Some moviegoers were playing cards and board games, while others were catching up on The Hunger Games novels over the hum of scattered conversations and a couple of acoustic guitars.

“It’s a perfect combination of violence and romance,” Maldonado said. “I’m not sure if it will be more popular than Harry Potter, but definitely Twilight.”

In terms of ticket sales, that was the case. The movie raked in an estimated $152.5 million over the weekend. It’s the third-biggest debut in North American box office history behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and The Dark Knight, and the highest nonsequel opening weekend ever, according to Lions Gate Entertainment.

“It’s supposed to be the next Twilight, but I think it will blow it out of the water,” SBCC student Elle Vasquez said.

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The film is based on a Suzanne Collins trilogy that came out in 2008. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic North America where random young people must compete in a televised fight to the death. Actress Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen, a girl from an impoverished region who voluntarily replaces her younger sister in the competition.

“The books were kind of violent, but I think that’s why some like it,” Vasquez said.

Although Maldonado wasn’t first in line Thursday, she’ll have another chance when the second movie comes out in 2013.

“I’ll definitely come as early next time,” she said.

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at akacik@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.