Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
March 14, 2012 at 03:00 PM EDT

It is far too easy to lump the Twilight franchise and The Hunger Games trilogy in the same gooey pile of frenetic teen appeal, romance, and endless merchandising opportunities.

It’s partly because it’s rare these days for one to be mentioned without the other and because, quite frankly, they do have a lot in common — starting with the unparalleled fan devotion. Both started with popular young-adult best-sellers that revolve around a tumultuous love triangle and the threat of early death thanks to some sort of fantastic, grotesque, inconceivable circumstances. The movie adaptations are filled with hot young things whose every move and comment after casting is closely observed, reported, and debated at water coolers, in high school hallways, through social networking sites, and on an extensive web of fan blogs. The films are promoted with T-shirt lines, dolls, and mall tours. Musicians clamor to be included on what will surely be a chart-topping soundtrack that even hipsters have to admit they browse on iTunes. Heck, now both movies are even brought to you by the same studio (Hunger Games distributor Lionsgate bought Twilight home Summit earlier this year).

Having covered all four Twilight premieres for EW and having slightly worse hearing to show for it, I assumed I was in for a very similar night — loud, long, and concerned about future generations thanks to the lewd signage — when I took the Hunger Games assignment. The banal details leading up to premiere day seemed suspiciously similar: Credentials had to be requested weeks in advance, getting into an early screening was harder than killing a Career Tribute, the event would be held at Nokia Theatre (the site of the last two Twilight premieres), and the press call time was four hours earlier than Jennifer Lawrence would even contemplate stepping on the carpet.

Once I arrived, though, the atmosphere felt different. The word that immediately popped into my head: calmer.

For one, the public restroom in the adjacent parking lot was not filled to the brim with young girls shortening their skirts and adding an extra layer of eyeliner in hopes of luring Robert Pattinson away from Kristen Stewart. (I almost had to throw down in said bathroom a few years ago when, before the Eclipse premiere, one girl thought her tart transformation was more important than washing my hands after using the facilities.)

At The Hunger Games premiere, a passerby practically might not realize a big-deal event was happening until turning the corner to see it. Security was laxer, and overhead screens were still showing Target ads and Clippers-Lakers promo spots. Across the street, there was no extra set of bleachers as there had been last November — only a smattering of people standing near the limo drop-off, several of whom told me they had just happened by, noticed the event, and figured they’d stick around to see a celebrity.

NEXT: The stars arrive… will chaos break out?

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