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Francis Lawrence offered 'Catching Fire' director gig

Barely a week after Gary Ross bowed out of directing Catching Fire, the sequel to his blockbuster megahit The Hunger Games, Francis Lawrence has been offered the hotly contested job, EW has confirmed.

The I Am Legend helmer — no relation to star Jennifer Lawrence — won the gig over reported contender Bennett Miller (Moneyball), whose commitment to a fall shoot for the biopic Foxcatcher likely ultimately put him out of the running. (The Hollywood Reporter first broke the story.)

Catching Fire is set on a much larger, more exotic canvas than The Hunger Games, and the choice suggests Lionsgate was keen on Lawrence’s ability to handle large-scale visual effects sequences while also giving them a sense of style. He’ll have precious time to prepare; Catching Fire already has a set release date (Nov. 22, 2013), and needs to finish shooting by December, in time for Jennifer Lawrence to begin production on the sequel to X-Men: First Class.

Read more:
‘Catching Fire’ poll: Who would you rather see in the director’s seat?
‘Catching Fire’ director gig down to Francis Lawrence, Bennett Miller: Reports
‘The Hunger Games': 2012’s biggest movie?

Box office preview: 'Think Like a Man' and 'The Lucky One' will finally overthrow 'The Hunger Games'

Assuming The Hunger Games tops the box office on Thursday, the sci-fi thriller will have been No. 1 for 28 straight days — the longest daily streak since 1999’s The Sixth Sense held on to first place for 35 days. But Katniss’ reign at the box office will likely come to an end this weekend, as two new date movies — the relationship comedy Think Like a Man and the romance The Lucky One — will fight over the crown.

Also opening is Disney’s fourth-annual Earth Day nature documentary. This year’s offering is Chimpanzee, which should open to around $7 million — slightly better than last year’s African Cats, which started out with $6 million. Here are my predictions for the weekend: READ FULL STORY

'Catching Fire' director gig down to Francis Lawrence, Bennett Miller: Reports


Update: Francis Lawrence offered the Catching Fire directing role. Read the latest news here

And then there were (probably) two. Multiple reports have surfaced on the web today that filmmakers Francis Lawrence and Bennett Miller are the final two contenders for the director of The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire. (The Los Angeles Times appears to have first broke the story.)

The choice for the replacement of Hunger Games‘ Gary Ross — who bowed out of the Catching Fire gig last week, citing the tight production schedule — are pretty stark. Lawrence has extensive experience with visual effects-driven action sequences from his first two films, 2005’s supernatural thriller Constantine and 2007’s post-apocalyptic thriller I Am Legend — which shares a similarly bleak tone to Catching Fire. But his latest effort, the 2011 period drama Water for Elephants, fizzled at the box office, and landed mixed reviews for its handling of the star-crossed romance between Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon. Many complained that the weakest part of Hunger Games was the romance between Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence, no relation), and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), and the romantic angle is far more front-and-center for Catching Fire.

Miller, by contrast, has practically no first-hand experience with CG-effects-heavy action scenes, and Catching Fire features more exotic locations that would likely call for extensive green-screen and effects work. READ FULL STORY

Box office report: 'Hunger Games' wins with $21.5M, passes $500M worldwide; 'Three Stooges' and 'Cabin in the Woods' debut decently

For the fourth weekend in a row, The Hunger Games easily led the domestic box office, holding off three new wide releases from the top spot.

Lionsgate’s $90 million blockbuster adaptation earned $21.5 million over the Friday-to-Sunday period, marking a slim 32 percent drop from last weekend. All told, The Hunger Games has earned $337.1 million after 24 days and seems headed for a final domestic total of about $375 million. The only other 2012 releases likely to reach those sorts of numbers are franchise films The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. READ FULL STORY

Box office update: 'The Hunger Games' tops Friday with $6.5 million, 'Stooges' beat 'Cabin' for second

Katniss and her fellow tributes aren’t ready to give up the box office throne just yet!

The Hunger Games hasn’t left first place since its March 23 debut, and judging by Friday’s box office numbers, the thriller will enjoy a fourth frame atop the chart, too. Games took in an estimated $6.5 million yesterday, putting it on pace for about $20 million this weekend. READ FULL STORY

Box office preview: 'Cabin in the Woods' and 'Three Stooges' take on 'The Hunger Games'

Three new wide releases are stepping into the arena this weekend alongside 2012’s biggest hit so far, The Hunger Games, but none of them appear likely to dethrone the box office titan, which has grossed $312.7 million in its first 20 days in theaters.

Horror entry Cabin in the Woods has a better shot at reaching the top of the chart than slapstick comedy The Three Stooges or action thriller Lockout, but in the post-Easter frame, Katniss has her eyes on the top prize for one final weekend. Will she nab the victory?

Here’s how the box office may shake out:

1. The Hunger Games – $20 million

After three weekends atop the chart, The Hunger Games isn’t going anywhere. Last frame, the dystopian thriller dipped by 43 percent (that weekend was both boosted by Good Friday grosses and weakened by Easter Sunday grosses), so another drop of about 40 percent seems likely. That would give The Hunger Games about $20 million, lifting its total to $335 milion and keeping it on track for a $370 million finish.

2. Cabin in the Woods – $15 million

Lionsgate’s Drew Goddard-directed and Joss Whedon-produced horror entry has been sitting on the shelf for about three years, which is usually a sure sign of a stinker. In this case, Cabin in the Woods, which has earned glowing reviews overall, bucks the trend. After a buzzy run at SXSW, Cabin, which was made for a reported $30 million, is looking at a moderately successful opening weekend, but it will need to rely on strong word-of-mouth to become a legitimate hit. Although Lionsgate has marketed the film heavily, it’s been difficult for the studio to effectively communicate the film’s super-secret storyline, for fear of giving away the surprising plot — and thus taking away from the theatrical experience. Thankfully, ample buzz should overcome the confusion and help Cabin in the Woods gross $15 million this weekend.

3. The Three Stooges – $12 million

Fox’s $30 million slapstick comedy looks utterly antiquated in its comedic stylings, which has made marketing a challenge — although Stooges has earned surprisingly positive reviews. Some young males looking for a family option other than Mirror Mirror will rejoice in the goofy comedy’s release, but it’s more likely that general audiences are turned off by the little footage they’ve already seen. It might make about $12 million this frame.

4. Titanic 3D – $11 million

James Cameron’s blockbuster pulled out of port more slowly than the last live action re-release, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, which debuted to $22.5 million. Still, it’s likely to hold better in the subsequent weeks than the frontloaded fanboy film. A 35 percent drop would give Titanic about $11 million over the Friday-to-Sunday period.

5. American Reunion – $10 million

The fourth installment of the American Pie franchise will face the same sort of second-weekend drop as most sequels at the box office. A decline of about 55 percent might give the comedy $10 million and keep it on track to be the lowest earner in the series.

Also entering theaters is the Guy Pearce/Maggie Grace thriller Lockout, which, despite an effective trailer, hasn’t garnered much buzz. It may earn about $6.5 million.

What will you be seeing this weekend?

Who could realistically direct 'Catching Fire' now that Gary Ross has dropped out?

Whoever takes over the directing reigns for The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire from the recently departed Gary Ross will have to come to the table with a nimble and wide-ranging skill set. The second of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling books in the series is darker, weirder, more political, more violent, and, yes, sexier. Whoever directs its big screen adaptation will obviously need to be adept with visual effects and breakneck action sequences, but also with scenes of political nuance and powerful emotional impact.

She or he will also have to maintain a strong rapport with the established cast; make some crucial casting decisions that will impact the rest of the series; navigate the Hollywood politics of taking over a massively lucrative movie franchise; deliver a PG-13 film that remains true to Collins’ text; and reconcile their artistic sensibility (i.e. ego) with what Ross established in The Hunger Games and Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) has done with his script for Catching Fire.

Most importantly, whoever Lionsgate hires will need to be available to do the job. READ FULL STORY

Gary Ross will not direct second 'Hunger Games' installment 'Catching Fire'

In a surprising turn, The Hunger Games director Gary Ross has bowed out of directing the second part of the trilogy, Catching Fire, which is scheduled for release in November 2013. In a statement from Ross released by Lionsgate, the director said he didn’t feel the schedule allowed him the time to make the movie as he envisioned it. There had been speculation in recent days that Ross and Lionsgate were having trouble coming to an agreement.

“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,” Ross said.

Lionsgate said they are “very sorry that Gary Ross has chosen not to direct Catching Fire.”

Read the complete statements from Ross and the studio below.


Box office report: 'The Hunger Games' three-peats with $33.5 mil, passes $300 million in 17 days

Two new competitors, two more cannons fired. The Hunger Games managed to overcome the debuts of both American Reunion and Titanic 3D, winning its third weekend in a row with $33.5 million.

The sci-fi survival thriller should pass $300 million on Easter Sunday, its 17th day in theaters. It’ll tie Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith as the sixth-fastest movie to reach the milestone. (It should be noted that the only Twilight film to ever hit $300 million, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, did so in 81 days.) At its current pace, The Hunger Games is headed for a final domestic gross between $360 million and $370 million.

American Reunion debuted in second place with $21.5 million. That’d be a commendable opening for most R-rated comedies, but it’s a bit of a disappointment for the fourth entry in the American Pie franchise. The past three American movies opened to an average of $32.4 million, and the first one started out with $18.7 million in 1999 — not much less than American Reunion. Factor in inflation, and American Reunion scored the series’ smallest opening weekend by far. READ FULL STORY

Box office update: 'The Hunger Games' fends off new competitors with $12.9 mil on Friday

Katniss 1, Stifler 0. The Hunger Games is now starting to show off some of its stamina, as the sci-fi survival thriller dropped only 31 percent for an estimated $12.9 million on Friday.

That puts the movie on pace for a $32 million weekend, and means that Katniss should reach $300 million domestically by Sunday night. If that happens, The Hunger Games will have reached $300 million in 17 days, tying Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith as the sixth-fastest movie to hit that figure.

In second place was American Reunion, which debuted to $9.2 million on Friday. The R-rated comedy, the fourth theatrical release in the American Pie series, should finish the weekend with about $22 million. That’s a respectable figure, but a bit of a disappointment considering the prior three Pie flicks opened to an average of $32.4 million. The only Pie movie that will have earned a lower opening-weekend number than American Reunion is the original American Pie, which started out with $18.7 million in 1999. Adjust for inflation, though, and that figure jumps past American Reunion to $28.8 million. READ FULL STORY

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