Hunger Games prequel movie: Francis Lawrence to direct The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Some five years after the Hunger Games franchise came to a close, we're poised to return to Panem. That's because director Francis Lawrence has been appointed to helm prequel movie The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

The news was confirmed by Lionsgate (reported by Variety) and marks Lawrence's return to the hit series. He helmed every Hunger Games movie from 2013's Catching Fire onwards, steering Jennifer Lawrence to mega-stardom with her gritty performance as District 12 saviour Katniss Everdeen.

"The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is creatively thrilling and takes this world to complex new dimensions that open up amazing cinematic possibilities," said Lionsgate Motion Picture Group chairman Joe Drake. "We’re thrilled to reunite this filmmaking team with this very unique franchise, and we can’t wait to begin production."

Interestingly, author Suzanne Collins' source novel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes hasn't even been published yet. It's set to arrive in May 2020, and the fact that the film rights have already been snapped up demonstrates the eagerness for another Hunger Games blockbuster.

The story revolves around the younger Coriolanus Snow, who later grows up to become the despotic ruler of Panem. He's played in the Hunger Games series by Donald Sutherland, although no casting details have been released for the prequel movie.

The synopsis is as follows: "It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute."

Collins says: "Lionsgate has always been the cinematic home of The Hunger Games, and I’m delighted to be returning to them with this new book. From the beginning, they have treated the source material with great respect, honoring the thematic and narrative elements of the story, and assembling an incredible team both in front of and behind the camera."

She adds: "It’s such a pleasure to be reuniting with [producer Nina Jacobson], Francis, and [Catching Fire screenwriter Michael Arndt] to adapt the novel to the screen, and having them share their remarkable talents, once again, with the world of Panem. I look forward to collaborating with them and all at Lionsgate as we bring The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes to theaters worldwide."

Although the final instalment of the Hunger Games series, 2015's Mockingjay: Part 2, ended on a happy note, we imagine Snow's character trajectory will be a lot darker. After all, there has to be a lot of bitterness, violence and anguish in his past to set him on course to become such a terrifying ruler.

Looking forward to a Hunger Games movie that fills in the gaps about the villain? Let us know @Cineworld.