‘Hunger Games’ Prequel To Start Production In First Half Of 2022, Lionsgate Film Boss Joe Drake Says

Lionsgate’s Hunger Games prequel film based on Susan Collins’ novel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is aiming to start production in the first half of 2022.

That update came from Lionsgate motion picture group chairman Joe Drake during the company’s quarterly earnings call with Wall Street analysts. The tentpole film is targeted for release in either late fiscal 2023 or early 2024, he said. It’s “moving along really, really well” in pre-production, he said.

While financial results largely met expectations, the overall picture was not especially scintillating for the company. Starz subscription growth stalled and movie profit tumbled due to P&A comparisons with a year ago. During the shorter-than-usual, 30-minute call, execs cited the reopening of the economy and a light programming quarter at Starz as dampers but expressed optimism for the rest of fiscal 2022.

Drake was asked about the landscape for theatrical film releases, a hot topic for movie execs coping with Covid-19 variants and new waves of uncertainty about distribution models. He highlighted the potency of “big brands” at the box office, which he said are “certainly working.” He didn’t cite any other studios’ releases, but pointed to in-house franchises like Hitman’s Bodyguard and Saw, whose latest incarnations will turn a profit despite the operating environment, he said.

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Hunger Games, which yielded nearly $3 billion in global box office across four previous films, is likely best positioned as a theatrical release. “There’s an audience that wants to come back” to theaters, Drake affirmed. “I believe the market’s going to come back. … There’s going to be a strong, robust platform for us to monetize our movies.”

Last year, Lionsgate said Hunger Games series filmmaker Francis Lawrence would return to direct Ballad, which is based on Suzanne Collins’ Scholastic novel. Lawrence directed the last three Hunger Games movies: Catching FireMockingjay Part 1, and Mockingjay Part 2. Casting has not yet been announced.

Also returning are franchise producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson. Collins will write the film’s treatment and Michael Arndt, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Little Miss Sunshine will adapt the screenplay, after previously serving as one of the writers of Catching Fire. Collins also will serve as an EP.

The prequel movie will focus on Coriolanus Snow at age 18, years before he would become the tyrannical President of Panem. Young Coriolanus is handsome and charming, and though the Snow family has fallen on hard times, he sees a chance for a change in his fortunes when he is chosen to be a mentor for the Tenth Hunger Games… only to have his elation dashed when he is assigned to mentor the girl tribute from impoverished District 12.

The fourth John Wick film started shooting in June, Drake said. Conversations are ongoing about a release date, but that element remains TBD, he added.

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