'Hunger Games' Prequel Film Based On 'The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes' Will Begin Shooting Next Year

Have you heard The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes? They're singing it over at Lionsgate, where an adaptation of the Suzanne Collins novel of the same name is gathering steam. Collins, of course, is the author of the YA book series The Hunger GamesThree of the four books in that series became a franchise of four films starring Jennifer Lawrence. The last book, Mockingjay — published in 2010 — hit the big screen in two parts in 2014 and 2015.

Last year, Collins went back to the well for a prequel set in the same post-apocalyptic world of Panem. Hollywood, no stranger itself to going back to the well, is following suit with a movie that will go into production in 2022.

Oh, Horn of Plenty for Us All

Sound the Horn of Plenty because The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes is now on track to begin production in the first half of 2022. Per Deadline, this latest update comes "from Lionsgate motion picture group chairman Joe Drake during the company's quarterly earnings call with Wall Street analysts." According to him, the film is barrelling along in pre-production with a release date being eyed for "either late fiscal 2023 or early 2024."

The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes follows a de-aged Coriolanus Snow, the character that the white-bearded Donald Sutherland portrayed in the movies. The heroic young man eventually becomes the evil President Snow, which means that this is essentially a supervillain origin story, something we've never seen in Hollywood before.

I know, I know. "Just report the news without incisive commentary," you say. But what's the keyboard command on a Mac for "drips sarcasm"? Never mind.

Now, the *extreme Donald Sutherland voice* ineluctable film adaptation of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is in the works. One thing this adaptation does have going for it is that Michael Arndt, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3, is handling the writing chores. You might say we love his work a Lotso.

We previously reported that Francis Lawrence is returning to direct The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Francis helmed all but the first Hunger Games movie and he also directed Jennifer in Red Sparrow. No relation, incidentally.

Monetize Those Movies

Keep in mind, this information comes from the mouth of a studio executive on an earnings call, where the issue of theatrical distribution (amid the recent surge of the Delta variant of the coronavirus) came up. Deadline notes that Drake "highlighted the potency of 'big brands' at the box office." He talked about some of Lionsgate's other franchises, e.g. Saw and The Hitman's Bodyguard, turning a profit. Here's a quote:

"There's an audience that wants to come back. I believe the market's going to come back. ... There's going to be a strong, robust platform for us to monetize our movies."

Yes, there is a moviegoing market and, hopefully, it will come back when it's safe to do so. However, the idea of leveraging a surefire hit to get the audience for those young adult books and movies rushing back to theaters seems ill-timed given the uncertainty of current circumstances.

Everyone's doing what they must to survive right now and that includes studio execs, who may just be trying to keep their head above water. Let's hope that by the time The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes flys (or slithers?) into theaters in 2023 or 2024, we are well beyond this pandemic and resuming some semblance of safe normalcy in our lives as human beings and moviegoers.