Deal includes 'Catching Fire' in German territories

Lionsgate and Studiocanal have extended and expanded their partnership with a longterm renewal of the agreement — including a new pact to distribute “Catching Fire,” the next installment of “The Hunger Games” franchise, in German-speaking territories.

The two companies made the announcement Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival, and noted that “The Hunger Games” has grossed nearly $400 million at the North American box office, and is approaching $650 million at the worldwide box office, including more than $24 million in German-speaking territories.

The companies did not disclose the length of the extension of the partnership, under which Lionsgate distributes the Studiocanal library of more than 2,000 titles. Studiocanal topper Olivier Courson noted that the alliance has covered U.S. distribution of “Grand Illusion,” “Terminator 2″ and “Last Exorcism.”

“Strengthening our partnership with an even stronger Lionsgate on a long-term basis is a great opportunity for Studiocanal,” he added.

The Studiocanal library includes DVD, television, on demand and digital rights to some of the top titles from the former Carolco and DEG libraries, including “Total Recall,” “Basic Instinct,” “Rambo,” “Tender Mercies,” “Rules of the Game” “That Obscure Object of Desire” and “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.”

Lionsgate UK and Studiocanal are also partnered in the U.K. in home entertainment sales and distribution joint venture Elevation Sales.

Lionsgate closed its deal two weeks ago with Francis Lawrence to direct “Catching Fire” and is planning to shoot the movie starting in the fall for a Nov. 22, 2013 release date.

“The Hunger Games” director Gary Ross ankled the sequel on April 10, citing a “fixed and tight production schedule” as his key reason for exiting.

Fox is planning to start its “X-Men: First Class” sequel in January with “Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence — no relation to Francis Lawrence — committed to the superhero pic.

Suzanne Collins’ “Catching Fire” story features a special edition of the Hunger Games every quarter-century in which tributes are “reaped” from the victors of past games. Among the key new characters is Finnick, a combatant in the second book who leads a revolt against the Capitol, and the head Gamemaker in the second book, who turns out to be working stealthily for the uprising.

“Slumdog Millionaire” screenwriter Simon Beaufoy is crafting the “Fire” script.

Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Toby Jones and Woody Harrelson will return in their roles. The film will be produced by Nina Jacobson’s Color Force with producer Jon Kilik.

Lawrence, a native of Austria, broke into show business as a music video director and landed his first feature gig on 2005’s “Constantine.” He then directed “I Am Legend” and “Water for Elephants.”

Lionsgate has not set the release dates for the final two films in the franchise, based on the concluding “Mockingjay” tome in Collins’ trilogy.

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