Given the amount of backlash over the choice of up-and-comer Jennifer Lawrence (X:Men First Class) as The Hunger Games' lead Katniss Everdeen, not to mention the seemingly never-ending casting updates, it's no surprise to hear that Lionsgate is expecting big things from the upcoming film franchise.
Even less surprising, but equally transparent, is the studio's choice to stretch Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games book trilogy into a film quadrilogy (four movies) - taking a marketing cue from similar young adult books-turned-megamoney film franchises, Harry Potter and Twilight.
Deadline New York broke the news earlier today with a subtle mention that the narrative would span four films instead of the book series' three-part format:
"Lionsgate executives told Wall Street analysts this morning to expect big things from The Hunger Games, a series of four action films that the studio will release from the trilogy written by Suzanne Collins."
While the extra film release isn't exactly a ground breaking idea, it was the first semi-official report that we'd heard regarding the possibility of a fourth Hunger Games film - and it wasn't long before industry insiders started phoning Lionsgate for confirmation.
The Hob, a Hunger Games news site managed to snag official word, reporting that Lionsgate was directly confirming the four film structure - but wouldn't discuss where the movies would be split:
We can confirm we have a deal that encompasses four (4) movies for THE HUNGER GAMES.
We cannot confirm any details beyond the below [the previous response listed above] at this time.
How the films will be split-up is certainly an intriguing question. The first book, The Hunger Games, is mostly self-contained. As a result, it'll probably be a matter of whether or not Lionsgate wants to go the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as well as Twilight: Breaking Dawn route (splitting one installment into two parts) or go about a more complicated restructuring of the story by segmenting the final two books into three parts - splitting somewhere toward the end of book two (Catching Fire) and middle of book three (Mockingjay) with the final film encompassing the remaining events of the final trilogy book.
Considering both Catching Fire and Mockingjay enjoy much richer, more involved, narratives, there are plenty of places where the story could be split - by simply ratcheting-up an action set-piece to act as a film climax. However, given the epic battle (think Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2) featured at the end of Mockingjay - it's likely that Lionsgate won't get too creative in segmenting the film storyline and rely on an action-heavy finale.
One major film adaptation selling points is the added "Now a Major Motion Picture" book prints that the studio can help push - which works a lot better if each film is set-against a particular installment. It's definitely possible we'll see a more complicated splitting of the books (or at the very least, working certain story beats in earlier or later, depending) - though, from a marketing standpoint, expect the studio to stick pretty close to the source material structure.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick and let us know where you think they should split The Hunger Games movies.
Production is currently underway on The Hunger Games in North Carolina. The film is slated for theatrical release on March 23rd, 2012.