Universal to release ‘Catching Fire’ in Italy

UPI takes reins from Warner in territory

LONDON — Universal Pictures Intl. has snapped up Italian distribution rights to “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” the second instalment of the Lionsgate franchise.

The deal was announced Tuesday by Lionsgate co-chairmen Patrick Wachsberger and Rob Friedman. UPI takes over from Warner Bros., which released the first instalment in Italy in May.

“The Hunger Games” has grossed $3.7 million in Italy and nearly $650 million at the worldwide box office.

“We are delighted to expand our successful international partnership with Universal to Italy on this exciting franchise,” said Lionsgate Intl. prexy Helen Lee Kim, who orchestrated the deal with Wachsberger. “We have enjoyed a productive relationship with Universal in several territories on such recent Lionsgate and Summit films as the ‘Step Up’ franchise, ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ and ‘The Cabin in the Woods.’ ”

“Catching Fire,” helmed by Francis Lawrence and starring Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, is expected to lense in September and will be released worldwide on November 22, 2013.

In Cannes last month, UPI was one of a handful of majors flexing its acquisition muscle on the independent market. Distrib locked multi-territory deals for Spike Lee’s “Oldboy,” and Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas and Morgan Freeman starrer “Last Vegas.”

Both pics were picked up from former Lionsgate motion picture group prexy Joe Drake’s new outfit, Good Universe.