‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes’ World Premieres As Team Optimistic For More Sequels

Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes had its world premiere at London’s BFI Imax this evening, with a red carpet that featured director Francis Lawrence and stars Rachel Zegler, Tom Blyth, Hunter Schafer, Josh Andres Rivera and more.

The return to the Suzanne Collins franchise that’s based on her prequel novel marks the first major world premiere outside of a festival to include actors on the media line since the SAG-AFTRA strike started in July. Even if the guild and the studios had not reached a tentative agreement to end the strike last night, the film had already secured an Interim Agreement with Lionsgate a non-AMPTP company.

Regardless, the team was effusive about the end of the strife. Producer Nina Jacobson said that she was among the folks “screaming with joy” that the strike is over, having learned about it during a jet-lagged night:

Blyth, who plays the young Coriolanus Snow, shared with us his thoughts on a “character that people already think they know and already definitely hate but hate to love and love to hate.” He also said he’s got “some very fun roles coming up… It’s getting pretty busy” now that the strike is done; and further told us that on Songbirds & Snakes, he “swapped some horror stories of going to the same drama school” with fellow cast member and Julliard alum Viola Davis “and some toolkit tricks of the trade.”

Francis Lawrence credited Collins with crafting a story that is “very much a Hunger Games story” and which allowed to bring in “fresh talent… and surround them with veteran legacy actors.”

Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Chair Joe Drake weighed in on future sequels to Songbirds & Snakes, during the red carpet, saying, “It leaves us all hungry for more… That is up to Suzanne, we’re all going to find out together.” He later introduced the film from inside the cinema saying, “There are movies that define and mean everything to a studio, and for a decade we’ve had the privilege of shepherding this movie, and after Mockingjay Par Two, we kind of waited around with a lot of suspense, and a ton of hope that Suzanne Collins would eventually want to revisit Panem which she’s done… When we learned that she was writing Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, we knew we were back… and we were really excited to visit this world that was so beloved and so missed by so many … it was worth the wait.”

The story takes place 64 years before Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen and the events of the original books and films. Before he would become the tyrannical President of Panem, the 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow (Blyth) is the last hope for his fading lineage, a once-proud family that has fallen from grace in a post-war Capitol. With the 10th annual Hunger Games fast approaching, the young Snow is alarmed when he is assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird (Zegler), the girl tribute from impoverished District 12. But, after Lucy commands all of Panem’s attention by defiantly singing during the reaping ceremony, Snow thinks he might be able to turn the odds in their favor. Uniting their instincts for showmanship and newfound political savvy, Snow and Lucy’s race against time to survive will ultimately reveal who is a songbird and who is a snake.

The prequel in the $3 billion-grossing global franchise will start offshore rollout on November 15 and hit domestic theaters on November 17. Writers are Michael Lesslie and Michael Arndt. Lawrence produces with Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson. Collins, Tim Palen and Jim Miller are executive producers. 

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