After steering the first film in The Hunger Games trilogy to a massive success, the biggest film of the year so far, Gary Ross decided last month that he wouldn’t be returning to direct the sequel, Catching Fire.

Lionsgate have now officially announced that the search for his replacement is over, with Francis Lawrence signing on to helm the second film, due to be released late next year.

Lawrence’s three feature credits to date – Constantine, I Am Legend, and most recently Water for Elephants – would definitely suggest that he’s a man who knows his craft, and is a very good choice to take over the franchise in Ross’ stead.

I Am Legend, in particular, is nothing short of immense, and it bodes well for fans of the first film and the original novels that Catching Fire is in safe hands.

The Hunger Games topped the US box office this year for a lengthy four weeks in a row, taking more than $150m. in its opening weekend, and has totalled more than $600m. across all its markets, naturally leading to high expectations for the sequel.

Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth are all set to return in the three leads, alongside the great supporting cast from the first film, including Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Toby Jones, and the brilliant Woody Harrelson.

Oscar-winning writer, Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours), has already been hired to pen the script, adapting Suzanne Collins’ original novel, and production is set to get underway in the autumn this year, with a release date already scheduled for 22nd November, 2013. More as we get it. For now, the full press release below:


‘Hunger Games’ Sequel To Open In Theaters Everywhere On November 22, 2013

SANTA MONICA, CA (May 3, 2012) – LIONSGATE® (NYSE: LGF), a leading global entertainment company, announced today that Francis Lawrence has officially signed on to direct CATCHING FIRE, the sequel to THE HUNGER GAMES, based on the second in a series of books by Suzanne Collins that has 36 million copies in circulation in the US alone.  The announcement was made by Lionsgate’s Motion Picture Group Co-Chairmen Patrick Wachsberger and Rob Friedman.

Lawrence, who is represented by CAA and 3 Arts Entertainment, has experience directing films that make him uniquely suited to handle the blend of character driven drama and high stakes action of CATCHING FIRE; among them are I AM LEGEND, CONSTANTINE, and WATER FOR ELEPHANTS.

“Lionsgate, the cast, and filmmakers are all thrilled to have Francis Lawrence come on board as director of Catching Fire.  Suzanne’s brilliant book is the intense story of the birth of the rebellion and Katniss’ emotionally charged journey as she takes on the mantle of the Mockingjay, and we all think Francis is the perfect director to bring the story to life,” said Erik Feig, Lionsgate’s President Of Production.

“From the very beginning of this brilliant trilogy’s journey from page to screen, our first priority has been to stay true to the heart and soul of Suzanne Collins’ powerful stories. From my first conversation with Francis, I knew he would make a great partner for both me and Suzanne.   His passion for Catching Fire and inspired ideas for a faithful adaptation make him the perfect director for this movie.  I know this will be a wonderful collaboration and I cannot wait to get started,” echoed producer Nina Jacobson.

Said Francis, “It is truly an honor and a privilege to bring Catching Fire, the second chapter of Suzanne’s beloved trilogy, to the big screen. I fell in love with the characters, the themes and the world she created and this chapter opens all of these elements up in such a thrilling, emotional and surprising way. I can’t wait to dive right into it and bring this chapter to life along with the truly superb cast and filmmakers involved.”

Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth will reprise their roles as Katniss, Peeta and Gale, with Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Toby Jones, and Woody Harrelson also returning to their respective roles.  The film will be produced by Jacobson’s Color Force in tandem with producer Jon Kilik.  Production is slated to begin this Fall, and the film will be released on November 22, 2013.

THE HUNGER GAMES has broken many box office records since it opened on March 23, 2012.  It achieved the highest grossing opening weekend ever for any non-sequel film and the third biggest opening weekend in box office history.  It has already grossed $373 million at the North American box office, ranking in the top 20 films of all time, and it recently crossed the $600 million mark in worldwide box office.”

Source: via Collider.