TACOMA, Wash. – Archery has been a focus of movies for generations. After all, there have been more than a dozen films involving Robin Hood. Errol Flynn portrayed the famed archer in the 1938 version of “The Adventures of Robin Hood.” Others playing the role include Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe and Sean Connery.
While Jennifer Lawrence may not have the devil-may-care panache of Flynn, her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games” has provided a welcome boost to today’s archery industry.
As her district’s female representative, the heroic character relies on her archery skills to survive. The latest installment in the film series, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” is now showing in area theaters.
Doug Hyder, owner of Great Northwest Archery in Puyallup, Wash., said he expects the latest film to have an impact equal to the first episode that hit the big screen in 2012.
“It did create a big push of people. It brought more people into archery,” Hyder said of the first film. “It was both people taking lessons and people coming to look at equipment.”
The film helped introduce more families, preteens and teenagers to the sport, he said.
“It did create a big buzz and brought a lot of youth into archery, and I think it will with the second one coming out,” he added.
Linda Parker is the executive vice president of the Washington State Archery Association and is a member of the Grays Harbor Bowmen in Aberdeen, Wash. She said the “Hunger Games” movies have boosted the industry much like the movie “A River Runs Through It” did for fly fishing.
She said bow manufactures have released bows modeled after those Lawrence uses in the films.
“We’ve had a huge surge from kids interested in lessons. A lot of that comes from the Hunger Games movie,” Parker said.
Parker talked about the 550 archers who competed at the state championship in March in Ellensburg. More than half of the participants were elementary students.
“That ties back to the movie and the interest in archery among teens and preteens,” she said.
Jay McAninch, president of the New Ulm, Minn.-based Archery Trade Association, said there is little doubt archery has benefited from recent media exposure.
“Archery has seen an increase but not specifically tied only to the ‘Hunger Games’ movie. There were five movies, a couple of TV shows, the London Olympics and lots of major companies using archery in advertising that raised interest in archery in 2012 and so far in 2013,” McAninch said.
“Nearly all our retail outlets, large and small, have seen youth equipment growing by double digits all across the country,” he added. “Generally we have seen retail sales and participation in archery increase from 20-30 percent across the country.”
In addition to more people trying the sport, McAninch said he has noticed a change in the demographics.
“We’re seeing that archery is becoming more family oriented and more diverse in terms of age, gender, ethnicity and race. In addition, the interest is coming from many people who haven’t tried or even thought about archery so what we’re seeing is archery becoming more mainstream,” he said.
The trade association chief said the group has plans for a national campaign tied to the release of the latest “Hunger Games” movie and the next installment of “The Hobbit,” which opens Dec. 13.
“We’ve developed and launched a national campaign to cultivate those who are intrigued, interested or otherwise stimulated by movies, TV shows and advertising,” he said. “The campaign is called ‘Release Your Wild’ and was launched on Facebook (on Nov. 5) and is on Instagram, Twitter.”
The campaign will run through the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and will include major “pushes” around movies, archery tournaments and other events to build interest and drive people to retail stores and shooting facilities.
While attracting younger people to the sport is important, it is equally vital to keep them involved. Parker understands the appeal of the sport to children.
“Part of the appeal is that it is an individual sport. People of any size or shape can participate to any degree they want. Success doesn’t necessarily go to the fastest or the slimmest. There’s no bench warmers in archery, everyone participates,” she said.
The benefits go beyond any archery range, she added.
“The focus and concentration that they have to practice to be successful in archery translates over into their academic classes,” she said.
So, as Katniss Everdeen takes on her newest challenges on the big screen, the archery industry expects to see another wave of people interested in the sport.
“With the movies, we do see a little excitement about archery and kids taking up the sport,” Hyder said.