Lionsgate is aiming to start production on the screen adaptation of its The Hunger Games prequel film, which will be based on Susan Collins’ novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, in the first half of 2022. Deadline is reporting that the update comes from the motion picture group’s chairman, Joe Drake, during the company’s quarterly earnings call with Wall Street analysts.
The producer added during the call that the company is targeting to release the tentpole movie in either late 2023 or early 2024. He also noted that the pre-production stage of the sci-fi dystopian origin story is “moving along really, really well.”
During the call, Drake also responded to questions about how well the The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes screen adaptation may do in theaters. There have been growing concerns over how the continuance of COVID-19 variants will continue to impact distribution models in the coming years.
The producer pointed to the fact that popular franchises are still doing well at the box office, including several other Lionsgate series, like The Hitman’s Bodyguard and Saw. The two franchise’s latest installments managed to make a profit when they were released in theaters earlier this year, despite the public’s concerns about the theatrical environment.
The original four Hunger Games screen adaptations earned nearly $3 billion in global box office during their theatrical releases between 2012-2015. As a result, the prequel will likely receive a theatrical distribution. Drake noted that “There’s an audience that wants to come back to theaters. I believe the market’s going to come back…There’s going to be a strong, robust platform for us to monetize our movies.”
The news of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes entering pre-production comes after Lionsgate announced last year that Francis Lawrence, who directed all three of the sequels in the original Hunger Games series, would return to the franchise to helm the origin story. The three follow-ups he directed-Catching Fire, Mockingjay – Part 1 and Mockingjay – Part 2-are noteworthy for helping launch Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence into international superstardom for her portrayal of series protagonist, Katniss Everdeen.
Collins will write the treatment for, and serve as an executive producer on, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt will pen the script for the prequel, after he previously served as one of the scribes on Catching Fire. Also returning are franchise producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson.
The origin movie will focus on Coriolanus Snow at age 18, years before he would become the tyrannical President of Panem. Coriolanus, who was played by Emmy Award-winning actor Donald Sutherland in the original series, grew up in difficult circumstances. Now as a young adult, he sees a chance for a change in his fortunes when he is chosen to be a mentor for the Tenth Hunger Games. However, his elation is dashed when he’s assigned to mentor the girl tribute from the impoverished District 12.