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Hungry for 'The Hunger Games', but Gary Ross now out for 'Catching Fire'

'Hunger Games' director Gary Ross steps down for 'Catching Fire'
'Hunger Games' director Gary Ross steps down for 'Catching Fire'

If you contributed to the massive $302.8 million domestic gross of "The Hunger Games" thus far, you might be a little disappointed to find director Gary Ross will not direct the sequel "Catching Fire".

While Ross admitted working on "The Hunger Games" "was the happiest experience of my professional life", the "Pleasantville" director says he doesn't have the time to write and prep for the movie he'd like "due to the fixed and tight production schedule." To date, "Cathing Fire" is set for a November 2013 release.

"The Hunger Games", starrying Jennifer Lawrence, now has reportedly topped the domestic gross of all the "Twilight" movies and all of the "Harry Potter" films, excluding the first and the last installments of the wizard tale.

So why would Ross bow out now?

After weeks of speculation surrounding Ross and Liongate bickering over money and other matters revolving around the Suzanne Collins' teen novel inspired film, the famed director released the following statement:

“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.”

To Ross' departure from the franchise, Lionsgate released this statement:

“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.”

While the Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” writer, Simon Beaufoy, is penning the "Catching Fire" script, no word yet on prospective directors.

How do you feel about Ross leaving the project? Please leave a comment below.

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