You’d think that, given The Hunger Games’ gargantuan success at the box office, the sequel would be a no-brainer. But a new monkey wrench got thrown into the behind-the-scenes negotiations that is threatening to extinguish Catching Fire before it even lights up.
While there are many things one can attribute the film adaptation of The Hunger Games’ success to—the popularity of the book, the stellar marketing campaign, a desire for a straight-up movie heroine—no one can argue that the film itself was leaps better than many other movies based on young-adult book hits (yes, Twilight, we’re talking about you).
And the man most responsible for the film, writer-director Gary Ross—who went through a “terrible” negotiation for Hunger Games—has yet to lock down a deal for the sequel. He’s going to want a rather large raise, and Lionsgate, known for being frugal when it comes to talent, isn’t going to want to give him one. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ross got $3 million for directing Hunger Games, along with 5 percent of the gross—which is a pittance for an Oscar-nominated, veteran filmmaker.
There’s no such issue with the cast, who are all committed to the sequels, but Ross will sit across the negotiating table armed with the massive grosses and the great reviews and make his case for a bigger piece of the pie. Could Lionsgate change directors? Sure. Warner parted ways with Chris Columbus, who directed the first two Harry Potter films, and got supremely lucky with Alfonso Cuaron. But Summit (which was just bought by Lionsgate) dropped Catherine Hardwicke from Twilight and hired a series of directors who couldn’t improve on the turgid original.
Regardless, time is of the essence, as Lionsgate has already announced a November 2013 date for Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and—given that whenever Fox decides to make X-Men: First Class 2 Jennifer Lawrence has to drop everything and shoot it—the window of opportunity is closing fast.