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.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

'Hunger Games' fan tours launch in Brevard

Busy day, but wanted to pass along this press release, for the hardcore fans out there:

The Hunger Games movie opens on March 23 and Brevard, NC is getting excited! A lot of the scenes in the “games” were shot here in DuPont State Recreational Forest. Tammy Hopkins, Film Liaison and TCArts Council Director for Brevard and Transylvania County said, “My phone has been ringing off the hook with folks wanting to go see the film locations. So Leigh Trapp with the marketing trapp and myself have put together Hunger Games Fan Tours which will feature the filming locations used by The Hunger Games movie in DuPont State Recreational Forest.”

Leigh Trapp, who has produced and guided a variety of fan-based experiences based on franchises such as Harry Potter and the Twilight series says, “Fan tours for movies and books have become increasingly popular - as readers and viewers alike want the opportunity to experience the world their characters live in first hand - and share in their adventures. These tours give them a great way to see some of the movie locations - and share in the experience of participating in Hunger Games–themed adventures with other like-minded fans.”

“We just launched our website,” said Hopkins. “On the website you will see that we will offer Day Trips as well as Weekend Adventure Trips. On the Weekend Trips we will be teaming with Earthshine Mountain Lodge to offer an immersive, hands on experience with survival skills classes after the participants have been out to see the film locations. Leigh and I have worked closely with David Brown and Bruce MacDonald at Dupont to study the locations and design a guided tour that will be fun and safe around waterfalls.”

Hunger Games Day Trips: Explore DuPont State Recreational Forest with your Sponsor to discover the locations used in the movie. Master fundamental survival skills like orienteering, camo-face painting, and shelter building needed to excel in the Hunger Games. Lunch will be provided in Hunger Games style. Shuttle service, DuPont State Recreational Forest permit and guides provided.  Pre-registration required. Cost is $79 per person. Hunger Games Day Trips will be offered on the following dates: May 26 & 27, July 14 & 15, and August 11 & 12.

Hunger Games Fan Tours Adventure Weekend: Start your Hunger Games Fan Tours’ Adventure Weekend on Friday by gathering at Earthshine Mountain Lodge ( for an incredible evening. You’ll be part of the lottery and get separated into your own District. You’ll then join other Tributes for a welcoming banquet – Hunger Games style.

Saturday you’ll tour film locations in DuPont State Recreational Forest that were used in the movie. You’ll then reconvene at Earthshine Mountain Lodge for lunch. The afternoon will be filled with survival classes that you’ll need to participate in the Hunger Games Simulation: archery, sling shot training, fire building, orienteering, shelter building, and camo-face painting. In the evening you’ll have another Hunger Games dinner sponsored by the Capital – and you’ll night zip-line and see what it’s like to be in the tree tops at night like Katniss and Rue. On Sunday – you’ll convene for your Hunger Games Simulation. See if you and your district have what it takes to win the Hunger Games. Our Hunger Games Simulation will be timed trials of the skills you’ve learned over the weekend.

Your Hunger Games Weekend includes: three days and two nights stay at Earthshine Mountain Lodge, 6 Hunger Games meals, Hunger Games snacks, guides, all Hunger Games skill training, Night Zip Lining and your Hunger Games Simulation. Shuttle service to and from the Asheville Regional Airport is included. Cost: $389 per person. Note: There is a $2 ticketing process fee from Ticketleap, our ticket service. Hunger Games Fan Tours Adventure Weekend trips will be offered on April 27-29; June 8-10; June 22-24; July 27-29; August 24-26; and Sept. 21-23. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Win tickets to an advance screening!

If you can't wait till opening day, March 23, to see the film, here are fresh details about how to enter to win a chance to see "The Hunger Games" just a bit earlier than everyone else (click to enlarge)...

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Stream 'Hunger Games' red-carpet premiere

The worldwide release of "The Hunger Games" is still almost two weeks away, but a select few will be seeing it in two days -- at the hotly anticipated film's red-carpet premiere in Los Angeles.

On Monday, from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m., will be streaming live with host Josh Horowitz outside of the famed Nokia Theatre. "Hunger Games" stars on hand will include Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth to Elizabeth Banks, Wes Bentley and Woody Harrelson.

MTV will deliver expert fashion, fan commentary, and never-before-seen interviews with the cast and the film's director, four-time Oscar nominee Gary Ross.

Meanwhile, go ahead and watch the official trailer for the 50th time. Thirteen days to go...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

'Hunger Games' cast greets fans in Atlanta

Several members of the cast of "The Hunger Games" met and greeted fans at Lenox Square in Atlanta in Tuesday as part of a cross-country mall tour Lionsgate designed to help promote the upcoming March 23 release of the film.

Pictured above, from left, are Jack Quaid (Marvel), Leven Rambin (Glimmer), Dayo Okeniyi (Thresh), Amandla Stenberg (Rue) and Liam Hemsworth (Gale). The event featured giveaways and a Q&A with the cast members in attendance.

Other stops on the tour include Phoenix, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, Minneapolis and Seattle. It started in Los Angeles last Saturday; fans there definitely got the bigger treat, as the cast members who appeared there were Hemsworth and co-stars Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, who are in the two lead roles as Katniss and Peeta.

More info on the tour is here.

Oh, last thing: We've secured several pairs of passes to the advance screening here in Charlotte, set for Wednesday, March 21. Details on how to win them are coming... soon...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New 'Hunger Games' clip, 'Muppets' spoof

Yahoo! Movies has released a new "First Look" clip, which shows the momentous first meeting between Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), the head of Katniss' style team for the Hunger Games. Check it out here:

Meanwhile, the Muppets have spoofed "The Hunger Games" in a trailer for the upcoming DVD and Blu-Ray release of "The Muppets" (in stores March 20 -- the same week "The Hunger Games" hits theaters). Watch them poke fun at the potential blockbuster flick here:

And finally, speaking of spoofs, here's one of the best we've seen online:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

$100 million opening for 'The Hunger Games'?

We won't find out for almost three weeks just how big a blockbuster “The Hunger Games” will be at the box office, but tracking on the film (which is Hollywood shorthand for awareness and interest) suggests this will be a monster of a money-maker.

According to the Los Angeles Times, speculation suggests that the movie, which opens on March 23, could have an opening weekend of close to -- and possibly more than -- $100 million.

On Rotten Tomatoes, 98 percent of more than 30,000 users who responded say they want to see "The Hunger Games." Hollywood Stock Exchange is currently predicting close to a $250 million box office take in the first four weekends of release. Already, “The Hunger Games” has broken the record for most first-day sales from online ticketing service Fandango, the LA Times reported.

A $100 million opening weekend would put the movie in the Top 20 on the all-time list. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" holds the record, with a $169.2 million opening last summer.

Meanwhile, movie writer Barry Koltnow of the Orange County Register recently put "The Hunger Games" at the top of his list of "the most over-hyped movies of 2012." Read his article here.

Have you bought your tickets yet?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Be the first to see 'The Hunger Games'

With less than 24 days until the much-anticipated release of "The Hunger Games," Lionsgate has announced 24 advance screenings of the movie to mirror the story's 24 "tributes" that fight to the death. And Charlotte is one of the lucky few.

Ours is the only city between Washington, D.C., and Atlanta to have been granted an early look at the film.

In a press release, Lionsgate said: "Fans can show their support for #HungerGames24 by visiting and tweeting a unique hashtag assigned to their closest city to unlock Advance Screening locations." (Charlotte fans: Use the hashtag #hungergames24CHA.)

Starting today, "the top four cities with the most Twitter volume will be announced each day and fans will then be able to enter to win tickets to those locations."

In addition, on March 10, the first customers to purchase a NOOK device at select Barnes & Noble stores will receive two complimentary tickets to the official advance screening on Wednesday, March 21. Locally, the only participating location is at 8725 Townley Road in the Birkdale area of Huntersville.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jennifer Lawrence on cover of Glamour mag

Jennifer Lawrence topped Glamour's list of the 25 hottest celebrities of 2012, and now the magazine is helping to fulfill its own prophecy: The "Hunger Games" star has landed on the cover of Glamour's April issue.

The actress seems to be coming to grips with her newfound superstardom, which is about to go off the charts. She tells the magazine:

"I feel like I’m in the eye of the hurricane right now. I just recently started cleaning like I’m insane, and I’m starting to think it’s my anxiety over the movie. I think it’s a bit like, 'I’m just cleaning the refrigerator handle. The movie’s not coming out. I’m going to clean it spotless, and then my life will not change.' It’s just scary. I feel like I got a ticket to go to another planet and I’m moving there and there’s no turning back, and I don’t know if I’m going to like that other planet or have friends there. It’s daunting."

Click here for a longer sneak peek at Glamour's upcoming article.

Meanwhile, a number of Charlotte theaters are hosting midnight screenings on Thursday, March 22 -- well, technically Friday, March 23, but basically you'll be staying up late Thursday night into Friday morning to see the film. Click here for a list of showtimes and theaters.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lawrence: 'Movies could be a huge flop'

OK, those words did actually come out of Jennifer Lawrence's mouth. But the "Hunger Games" star can't possibly believe them.

Click here for a screenshot of a Q&A with Lawrence that has been published in the magazine Celebritext. In it, she also talks about being a fan of the "Twilight" saga's Kristen Stewart, being around her famous co-stars, and the most recent book she's read.

Speaking of "Twilight," according to Entertainment Weekly, "The Hunger Games" has broken the record for first-day advance ticket sales previously held by "Twilight Saga: Eclipse." "Hunger Games" tickets went on sale last week, and the movie opens on March 23.

The Observer has learned that an advance screening will take place on Wednesday, March 21, in Charlotte, which is one of the few cities that will actually get to see the film early. Keep an eye on and your daily newspaper for details on how to score passes...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Collector's items for 'Hunger Games' fans

Learned over the weekend about several movie tie-in products that hardcore fans of the upcoming movie might be interested in.

Movie nerd site Big Shiny Robot has details about clothing and accessories (including a pair of mockingjay earrings) here. Entertainment Earth, which sells action figures based on movie characters, is advertising a "Barbie Hunger Games Doll" that appears to be an official Mattel product; the site says the doll will be out in April. And the gossip site Just Jared Jr. has details about the March 2 "Hunger Games" collector's issue of People magazine, which will feature interviews and lots of photos with the stars of the film.

If you're looking for fresh interview clips, check out this one (from PopSugar) featuring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Wes Bentley and Elizabeth Banks:

Friday, February 24, 2012

'Hunger Games' tickets on sale now

Hungry for "The Hunger Games"?

Advance tickets for the highly anticipated movie -- based on Suzanne Collins' best-selling young-adult novel -- went on sale Wednesday. The film opens in less than a month: on Friday, March 23.

Fandango shows online availability for several Charlotte theaters, including Regal Phillips Place, AMC Carolina, AMC Northlake, Regal Arboretum, Regal Starlight, Regal Stonecrest, AMC Concord Mills and Regal Birkdale.(Click here to purchase.)

The Washington Post reported today that advance tickets for the film accounted for 83 percent of Fandango's Wednesday sales.

Meanwhile, Deadline.comis reporting that cast members from "The Hunger Games" will be embarking on a national tour to meet press and fans March 3-10. The tour will include a stop at the JW Marriott Atlanta Buckhead in Atlantaon Tuesday, March 6. Scheduled to appear are Liam Hemsworth (Gale), Leven Rambin (Glimmer), Dayo Okeniyi (Thresh), Amandla Stenberg (Rue)and Jack Quaid (Marvel).