Weyerhaeuser Co. officials are salivating at the success of the "Hunger Games" novels, company officials said Thursday in Longview.

The company's Norpac newsprint mill produced the paper for the best-selling trilogy, whose sales have increased by 55 percent this year with the buzz of the Hunger Games movie, according to Scholastic, the publisher, and industry trade publications.

"Buy the book. It's much better than the movie," Ray Harrison, Norpac fiber line manager, told about 30 community leaders at the Cowlitz Expo Center during the company's quarterly briefing.

Weyerhaeuser officials offered a mostly positive report for the first three months of the year. The company reported $41 million in earnings, about 8 cents per share, for the quarter ending in March. Company shares traded around $19.75 Thursday, down from $20.87 a year ago.

At Norpac, one of North America's largest newsprint mills, books and other paper products are gradually taking over the business as newspaper circulation falls and dailies shrink in size and number of pages. Norpac, which is jointly owned by Weyerhaeuser and Japan-based Nippon Paper Products, does not report Norpac's quarterly financials separately.

Newsprint sales are now less than half of Norpac's business, down from 75 percent a decade ago, Harrison said. Newsprint sales domestically and in Japan have fallen 5 percent to 10 percent since 2002, according to Harrison.

To make up the difference, Norpac has boosted production of book cream paper and reached deals with major publishers including Simon and Schuster, Random House and Scholastic. The mill has produced paper for the "Twilight" book series, "Dan Brown" novels and other best sellers.

The "Hunger Games" trilogy, written by Suzanne Collins, is a teenage postapocalyptic thriller following the story of children who are selected by lottery to compete in a televised fight to the death.

In other local Weyerhaeuser divisions, log exports out of the Longview docks to China slowed this year after vigorous sales in 2011, said Ross Graham of Weyerhaeuser's timberlands division.

Chinese demand waned because of high inventories, a slowing housing market and tighter import restrictions, Graham said. However, a jump in Japanese exports helped offset the decline from China, he said.

Tim Haynes, who represents the company's pulp mill, said a new state law passed this year will help the mill boost renewable energy production. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, allows pulp mills to count hog fuel and black liquor that the company has produced for decades onsite as renewable biomass energy.

"That's going to be a big help to us financially, and I hope it sets us up in the future for more investments in renewable energy," Haynes said.

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