By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist January 17, 2012 at 9:05AM
With any franchise that's based on younger actors, getting a steady stream of films is crucially important; without a "Harry Potter" or "Twilight" film every eighteen months or so, you end up with a lead creeping up on their thirties by the time the series comes to an end. And so it goes with "The Hunger Games," Lionsgate's great hope for the next big teen-friendly franchise. With a ready-made trilogy of books from author Suzanne Collins, there's source material already in place, and even though the first film, written and directed by "Seabiscuit" helmer Gary Ross, won't hit theaters for a couple of months yet, the studio is already making plans for a sequel.
"Catching Fire," which *spoiler* sees Katniss Everdeen start to become a symbol of rebellion against the corrupt President Snow, and forced to compete in a follow-up battle to the death, has already been slated by the studio for a Thanksgiving release date next year, and they seem to be locking down their key talent, confirming rumors that started to circulate before Christmas. As long suspected, Ross will return to direct, while Simon Beaufoy, the Oscar-winning writer of "Slumdog Millionaire" and "The Full Monty," is officially on board to write the script, with Ross, who shares writing credit on the first film with Collins and Billy Ray, bowing out of those duties this time around due to his post-production commitments on the first film (although it likely doesn't rule him out from taking a pass later on).
Beaufoy's hire shows how seriously Lionsgate are taking the series, particularly now that they've bought Summit, and we're hoping that such a prestigious writer on board backs up our optimism about the first film, which debuted a promising trailer a few months ago. Barring any disaster (i.e. "The Hunger Games" tanking), the cast of the first film, which includes Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Toby Jones and Donald Sutherland, will return for the sequel. Or at least, the ones who survive will... "The Hunger Games" hits theaters on March 23rd, while "Catching Fire" will follow on November 22nd, 2013. [The Wrap]