Looking Back at the Hunger Games Franchise as Lionsgate Moves to Adapt The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Prequel

Photo Credit: Lionsgate

This morning, Lionsgate announced they’re pushing forward with a continuation of The Hunger Games on the big screen by adapting author Suzanne Collins’s upcoming prequel novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. While no release date for the film has been targeted as of yet, the book is set to publish just a few weeks from now on May 19.

The original series of films was a watershed moment for the studio in the early 2010s as they capitalized on the wave of popular young adult stories being translated from the page to a cinematic setting. Harry Potter had come to its literary and theatrical denouements in 2011, while Lionsgate / Summit’s own adaptation of the Twilight series closed out in 2012.

The Hunger Games, though, was a smashing success off the line when it bowed to $152.5 million on opening weekend in March 2012. The film blew away box office expectations and signaled the start of a new blockbuster franchise for Hollywood, ultimately earning $408 million domestically and an additional $286.4 million overseas. Moreover, the film launched star Jennifer Lawrence to the top of many A-lists in Hollywood as her career took off in major ways from there.

At the time, Hunger Games‘ debut was the biggest March box office opening in history and has only since been surpassed by the Beauty and the Beast remake, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Captain Marvel.

Just a year and a half later, Catching Fire proved the first film’s success was no fluke as the anticipated follow-up debuted to another $158.1 million on opening weekend in November 2013, which to this day still stands as the highest November debut of all time. That first sequel proved to be the highest grossing entry of the four-film series with $865 million worldwide.

The third and final book in Collins’s novel trilogy was divided into two films, mimicking the strategy employed by the finales of Potter and Twilight before it. 2014’s Mockingjay Part I debuted to $121.9 million domestically, finishing with over $755 million worldwide, while 2015’s Part II capped things off with a $102.7 million stateside opening and over $658 million at the global box office.

All in, the four films in the franchise pulled $1.45 billion domestically, plus $1.52 billion internationally, for a global sum of more than $2.97 billion.

Here is Lionsgate’s official press release on The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes:

LIONSGATE TO ADAPT SUZANNE COLLINS’S 
 NEW HUNGER GAMES NOVEL
“THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES”
INTO A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE

—$3 BILLION FRANCHISE RETURNS TO THE BIG SCREEN
 AND BREAKS NEW GROUND WITH NEW STORYLINES 
AND NEW UNIVERSE OF CHARACTERS —

—Studio to Reunite the Hunger Games Creative Team of 
Director Francis Lawrence, Screenwriter Michael Arndt, 
Producer Nina Jacobson, and author Suzanne Collins—

SANTA MONICA, Calif., April 21, 2020 – Global content leader Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF.A, LGF.B) today announced that the studio will adapt Suzanne Collins’s highly anticipated novel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, which takes place in the Hunger Games universe, into a major motion picture. The announcement was made today by Joe Drake, chairman of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group.

One of the most eagerly awaited publishing events of the year, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will be published by Scholastic simultaneously in print, digital and audio formats in the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand on May 19. The first three books in Collins’s series—The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay—have more than 100 million copies in print worldwide and have been translated into 52 languages; Lionsgate adapted these books into four feature films that took in nearly $3 billion worldwide.

To adapt the new book, the studio has re-enlisted several members of the franchise’s creative team and some of the industry’s most sought-after filmmakers. Color Force’s Nina Jacobson, who has produced all of the films in the franchise, will produce the film adaptation of the new novel along with her partner Brad Simpson, who will also be involved in a producorial capacity. Francis Lawrence, who directed Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part 1, and Mockingjay Part 2, will return to the director’s chair. Collins will write the film’s treatment and Michael Arndt, the Oscar®-winning screenwriter of Little Miss Sunshine and a nominee for his work on Toy Story 3, will adapt the screenplay, after previously serving as one of the writers of Catching Fire. Collins also will serve as an executive producer of the new film.

The film 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. 

Commenting on the announcement, Drake said, “Suzanne’s new book has been worth the wait. It offers everything fans could hope for and expect from The Hunger Games while also breaking new ground and introducing an entirely new canvas of characters. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is creatively thrilling and takes this world to complex new dimensions that open up amazing cinematic possibilities. We’re thrilled to reunite this filmmaking team with this very unique franchise, and we can’t wait to begin production.”

“Lionsgate has always been the cinematic home of The Hunger Games, and I’m delighted to be returning to them with this new book,” said Collins. “From the beginning, they have treated the source material with great respect, honoring the thematic and narrative elements of the story, and assembling an incredible team both in front of and behind the camera. It’s such a pleasure to be reuniting with Nina, Francis, and Michael to adapt the novel to the screen, and having them share their remarkable talents, once again, with the world of Panem. I look forward to collaborating with them and all at Lionsgate as we bring The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes to theaters worldwide.”

The deal was overseen by Drake, who bought the original book during his previous tenure at the studio as head of the motion picture group. With the release of the new book, Drake made The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes a priority for Lionsgate.

Jim Miller, the Lionsgate executive who has served as the studio’s project executive on all of the franchise’s films, will oversee the production. Patricia Laucella and Phil Strina oversaw the rights for the book as well as all talent deals for Lionsgate. Collins was represented by Jason Dravis from The Dravis Agency and Diane Golden and Jennifer Justman from the law firm Katz Golden Lerner LLP. Lawrence is represented by CAA and 3 Arts as well as Gretchen Bruggeman-Rush at Hansen, Jacobson, Teller & Hoberman. Jacobson was represented by Julian Zajfen at Ziffren Brittenham. Arndt is repped by Verve and McKuin, Frankel & Whitehead.

ABOUT SUZANNE COLLINS AND THE HUNGER GAMES
Bestselling author SUZANNE COLLINS first made her mark in children’s literature with the New York Times-bestselling Underland Chronicles fantasy series for middle grade readers. She continued to explore the effects of war and violence on those coming of age with The Hunger Games Trilogy. The Hunger Games (2008) was an instant bestseller, appealing to both teen readers and adults. The book appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 260 consecutive weeks (more than five consecutive years), and there are more than 100 million copies of all three books in the trilogy in print worldwide. 

For more information about The Hunger Games, visit http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/hungergames.

FRANCIS LAWRENCE most recently served as an executive producer of the AppleTV+ series “See”; he also directed the first three episodes of the series. He previously directed three of the four films in the Hunger Games series (Catching Fire and Mockingjay Part 1 and 2) and reteamed with Jennifer Lawrence for the thriller Red Sparrow.

MICHAEL ARNDT won the Academy Award® for his screenplay Little Miss Sunshine. He shared another nomination for his work on the screenplay to the animated blockbuster Toy Story 3. His other credits include The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Oblivion, and Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.

NINA JACOBSON and Color Force produced all of the films in the Hunger Games franchise. Other recent projects include the breakthrough hit Crazy Rich Asians, the television series “American Crime Story,” for which they were honored with two Emmy Awards, adaptations of the novels The Goldfinch and Where’d You Go, Bernadette, and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise. Jacobson and her partner Brad Simpson were also Emmy-nominated for their work on the series “Pose.” Upcoming projects include a television series for FX based on the comic “Y: The Last Man.”

ABOUT LIONSGATE
The first major new studio in decades, Lionsgate is a global content leader whose films, television series, digital products and linear and over-the-top platforms reach next generation audiences around the world. Lionsgate film and television properties also support a global network of location-based entertainment and other branded attractions as well as a robust video game business. Lionsgate’s content initiatives are backed by a nearly 17,000-title film and television library and delivered through a global sales and distribution infrastructure. The Lionsgate brand is synonymous with original, daring and ground-breaking content created with special emphasis on the evolving patterns and diverse composition of the Company’s worldwide consumer base.