Friday, April 20, 2012

Studio zeroes in on director for 'Catching Fire'

"After a quick but fairly exhaustive search, Lionsgate has chosen Francis Lawrence to direct the Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire.
"Sources say Lawrence will receive an official offer Thursday afternoon. If he accepts and a deal can be worked out, he will replace Gary Ross, who directed the hugely successful first installment of the franchise.
"The hunt has been fast and furious, with the field narrowing down to Lawrence, director of I Am Legend and Water for Elephants, and Bennett Miller, who helmed the Oscar-nominated Brad Pitt baseball movie Moneyball. Both directors met with the studio Thursday, according to sources, and Lionsgate executives have made their pick.
"Lawrence was deemed the front-runner by observers simply because of his open schedule. Miller is working his way to a December start for Foxcatcher, a true-life project centering on John Du Pont that has been his focus for several years. Miller has even lined up Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo for the drama, and delaying it would have been a Herculean task.
"Other directors on the shortlist of Catching Fire contenders were Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In, Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy), Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (Babel), Cary Fukunaga (Jane Eyre) and Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code).
"Lawrence’s selection raises the question of the state of the Catching Fire screenplay. Ross, who is a writer as much as he is a director, worked on the Hunger Games script and was planning on spending two months honing Fire, working from a script penned by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire). The producers and the new director now will need to keep working with Beaufoy or hire new scribes to hammer out the script before shooting begins.
"The moviemakers are facing a ticking clock, especially since Lionsgate has set a Nov. 22, 2013, release date for Catching Fire, the second of four planned movies based on Suzanne Collins' trilogy of books. Also coming into play is that shooting for Fire likely needs to be done by early January so that star Jennifer Lawrence, who is not related to the Austria-born director, can begin shooting the sequel to X-Men: First Class in late January. Fox, which is making that movie, has an option on the actress that supersedes her Lionsgate commitment.
"Lawrence is repped by CAA and 3Arts and attorney Gretchen Rush. "

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Gary Ross won't direct 'Catching Fire'

Gary Ross, who went to great lengths to secure the job of directing the movie version of Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games," will not be back for the sequel.

Although the 55-year-old Academy Award nominee spoke as recently as last month about tentative plans to move forward with work on "Catching Fire," the second installment in Collins' trilogy. "We're figuring out the details ... and we're working on a screenplay with Simon Beaufoy," he told the Observer in Los Angeles in early March.

As published on Entertainment Weekly's website late last night, here is Ross' statement on his decision to leave the franchise:

Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct Catching Fire. As a writer and a director, I simply don’t have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule.

I loved making The Hunger Games – it was the happiest experience of my professional life. Lionsgate was supportive of me in a manner that few directors ever experience in a franchise: they empowered me to make the film I wanted to make and backed the movie in a way that requires no explanation beyond the remarkable results. And contrary to what has been reported, negotiations with Lionsgate have not been problematic. They have also been very understanding of me through this difficult decision.

I also cannot say enough about the people I worked with: Producer Nina Jacobson, a great collaborator and a true friend; the brilliant Suzanne Collins, who entrusted us with her most amazing and important story; the gifted and remarkable Jennifer Lawrence whose performance exceeded my wildest expectations, and the rest of the incredible cast, whom I am proud to call my friends.

To the fans I want to say thank you for your support your faith, your enthusiasm and your trust. Hard as this may be to understand I am trying to keep that trust with you. Thank you all. It’s been a wonderful experience.

Lionsgate issued this response:

We’re very sorry that Gary Ross has chosen not to direct Catching Fire. We were really looking forward to making the movie with him. He did an incredible job on the first film and we are grateful for his work. This will not be the end of our relationship, as we consider Ross to be part of the Lionsgate family and look forward to working with him in the future.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

'Hunger Games' lands Charlotte on 'Today Show'

A "Hunger Games" heads up for you: Look for Charlotte on NBC’s "The Today Show" tomorrow morning in the 7 a.m. hour. It will use the city in a segment showcasing "Hunger Games" film sites with national correspondent Janet Shamlian. It was shot last night in the Knight Theater at the Levine Center for the Arts.

Also, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority has set up a page with more filming site information for potential visitors, at Among the revelations: The sweets that tempted Haymitch, Effie, Peeta and Katniss in the lavish dining car en route to the Capitol of Panem were created by local favorite Amelie’s French Bakery.

Friday, March 23, 2012

'Hunger Games': $19.7 million at midnight shows

The odds are ever in favor of Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games” making a Cornucopia full of money over the weekend.

As reported in Entertainment Weekly and the Los Angeles Times, the new movie raked in an astonishing $19.7 million from midnight showings across the country -- the seventh highest total gross from such first-night screenings, behind only “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” sequels.

“Hunger Games” fever is burning so hotly that Hollywood is anticipating the movie could make $100 million this weekend, and perhaps flirt with the top-five biggest openers ever. To crack that elite list, it would need to do better than last fall’s “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1,” which opened to $138.1 million.

How much do you think “The Hunger Games” will earn at the box office this weekend?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Win 'Hunger Games' books, posters!

Less than two days remain till "The Hunger Games" finally hits theaters.

While you're waiting, spend five minutes writing me an e-mail explaining where and when you're going to see the movie, who you're going with, when you read the books, what you liked about them, and what you're most excited to see in the movie version.

One lucky respondent will receive this special "collector's edition" of "The Hunger Games" ($30 value).

Another lucky respondent will score "The Official Illustrated Movie Companion," and I've also got a "Hunger Games Tribute Guide" to give away. Those prizes will be mailed to winners. If you're willing/able to drop by the Observer, ANYONE who responds (with the asked-for info) can come get a free high-quality mini-movie poster featuring Katniss (aka Jennifer Lawrence).

Send e-mails to Please include your full name, age and city of residence. Thanks, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

See 'Hunger Games,' fight hunger

"Hunger Games" fans can help Carolina Cinemas' Charlotte Crownpoint & Loaves & Fishes fight hunger at a premiere night event for the new movie at Carolina Cinemas.

A "tribute" of five non-perishable, canned food items or a $2 donation is all it takes to enter for a night of family-friendly fun and games -- including popcorn eating contests, ping pong playoffs, bowling competitions and more -- all leading up to the most anticipated movie of 2012 -- a 12:01 a.m. screening of "The Hunger Games." (Movie tickets must be purchased separately.)
All tributes go to Loaves & Fishes to help fight hunger in our community.

Festivities begin at 10 p.m. Advanced purchase of tickets to the midnight premiere is recommended. (Again, entry to the pre-movie event does not include admission to the movie.)
The theater will continue to accept canned food donations until Monday, April 1. Anyone who donates five canned food items will receive a $2 popcorn donation from Carolina Cinemas (item must be redeemed day of donation).

Friday, March 16, 2012

'Hunger Games' advance ticket sales top 'Twilight'

In less than one week, millions of moviegoers across the country will be entering the arena of “The Hunger Games” as the movie debuts in theaters at 12:01 a.m. on March 23.

More than a thousand showtimes are already sold out across the country, from New York to San Francisco, from Maine to Hawaii, according to Fandango. Theater owners are adding additional showtimes -- some as late as 3:00 a.m. on Friday morning -- to meet the demand for tickets, available at The film’s advance ticket sales have already surpassed those of the first “Twilight” movie at the same point in that film’s sales cycle.

“Hunger Games” currently represents 71 percent of today’s ticket sales on Fandango. Here are a few more statistics from an online survey of several thousand “Hunger Games” moviegoers conducted on Fandango:

• 72 percent say the intriguing premise and action is what attracts them most to “Hunger Games”; only 18 percent picked the love story as the main attraction;

• 57 percent are planning to see the movie with a group of friends;

• 46 percent of respondents are 25 or older; 54 percent are younger than 25.

Read my story about what the stars and filmmakers of liked about North Carolina, where they spent four months filming last year, here.

You also have a few more hours to enter to win passes to the advance screening. Click here for details.