June 01, 2011 3:22pm PT by Etan Vessing
'Hunger Games' Book Trilogy Planned as Four Movies
TORONTO -- Convinced that it has the makings of a hit franchise, Lionsgate is planning to spin the three books in Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy into four feature films -- a la the extended film adaptations of the Twilight trilogy and the Harry Potter novels.
"The property is generating tremendous buzz and excitement, and it all points to a major Lionsgate franchise in the making," CEO Jon Feltheimer said during an analysts' call Wednesday.
The Hunger Games, the first film in the series, which is set in a post-apocalyptic world where teams of teens compete for their lives in an annual TV event, started production last week in North Carolina and is slated for release March 23.
Joe Drake, Lionsgate's motion picture group president, said the title was the studio's highest-selling film when it was offered for international sales at the recent Cannes Film Market.
He added that while the Hunger Games books have sold mostly in North America, they are starting to penetrate the international market, raising the movies' box office potential overseas.
"We have distributors who consider this as their big brand next year, the movie that can change their company," Drake said.
Although the film has attracted a high-profile cast -- which includes hot new talents like Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson and Elizabeth Banks as well as established names like Donald Sutherland and Woody Harrelson -- Lionsgate said it held the line on the back-end payouts it offered to bring them on board.
"Our business affairs did an extraordinary job. Although everyone is being treated fairly, we do retain the upside in all of the pictures," Drake said.