It's official: The Hunger Games prequel movie is coming. It had previously been revealed that Lionsgate had plans to adapt author Suzanna Collins' upcoming novel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes into a feature, but now the studio has confirmed those plans are underway, with Collins directly involved. Additionally, director Francis Lawrence, who previously helmed three entries in the franchise, is returning.

Francis Lawrence directed Catching Fire as well as both Mockingjay movies. Suzanne Collins will partner with writer Michael Arndt on the screenplay. Arndt previously penned the script for Catching Fire. Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson are set to produce. Lionsgate motion picture group chairman Joe Drake had this to say about it in a statement.

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"Suzanne's new book has been worth the wait. It offers everything fans could hope for and expect from 'The Hunger Games' while also breaking new ground and introducing an entirely new canvas of characters. 'The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes' is creatively thrilling and takes this world to complex new dimensions that open up amazing cinematic possibilities. We're thrilled to reunite this filmmaking team with this very unique franchise, and we can't wait to begin production."

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is set to be published on May 19. The story will center on a young Coriolanus Snow, played by Donald Sutherland in the movies. It focuses on him at 18-years-old, long before he would become the tyrannical President of Panem. The Snow family has fallen on hard times and the charming, handsome young man sees a chance for change in his fortunes when he is chosen to be a mentor for the Tenth Hunger Games. However, he is assigned to mentor a girl tribute from impoverished District 12. Suzanne Collins had this to say in a statement.

"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. It's such a pleasure to be reuniting with Nina, Francis, and Michael 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."

There is no word on casting at this time. The big question on that front will be who is cast to play Snow. There is also no indication as to when filming may begin, but that is rather hard to predict right now, given the ongoing production shutdown. Lionsgate has not yet set a release date for the movie.

The decision doesn't come as a surprise. The Hunger Games franchise proved to be massively successful for Lionsgate. Across four movies, the franchise grossed $2.95 billion at the global box office, making it one of the studio's most successful ventures to date. We'll be sure to keep you posted as any further details are made available. This news comes to us via Lionsgate.