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‘Divergent’ Director Neil Burger Won’t Do Sequel (EXCLUSIVE)

Lionsgate's 'Divergent' follow-up 'Insurgent' set to open March 20, 2015

Divergent” director Neil Burger will not helm “Insurgent,” the second title in Lionsgate’s upcoming young-adult franchise, and the studio has set the sequel for a March 20, 2015, release.

Burger is currently in post-production for “Divergent,” starring Shailene Woodley, for a March 21, 2014, release and Lionsgate is currently seeking another director for “Insurgent.”

The March, 2015, release date requires that production start this spring. Lionsgate also announced Monday that the third film, “Allegiant,” will be released a year later on March 18, 2016.

The “Divergent” franchise — released via its Summit brand — is viewed as a key to Lionsgate’s strategy to lead in the young-adult genre. Summit’s five “Twilight” films have topped $3.3 billion in worldwide grosses and Lionsgate’s  first two “Hunger Games” have pulled in over $1.4 billion.

Lionsgate also had to find a new director for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” Gary Ross directed “The Hunger Games,” which opened in March, 2012, then decided against directing the second film, citing a compressed production schedule. Francis Lawrence directed “Catching Fire” and is currently on the two “Mockingjay” titles in the “Hunger Games” franchise, which are already being shot back-to-back in Atlanta and will be released in November, 2014 and November, 2015.

In February, 2011, Summit closed a deal to acquire film rights to Veronica Roth’s futuristic novel “Divergent” with Red Wagon toppers Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher attached to produce along with Pouya Shahbazian. Lionsgate then bought Summit early last year and signed “Limitless” helmer Burger to direct several months later.

“Divergent” also stars Theo James, Jai Courtney, Miles Teller and Kate Winslet. Set in a dystopian Chicago, the  story centers on a society divided into five factions, each dedicated to a particular virtue — Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity and Erudite — with all 16-year-olds required on a particular day to select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives.

The life of the female protagonist Beatrice Prior (Woodley) changes dramatically when she switches factions.

Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer told Wall Street analysts in May that owning “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight” gives the company a catalyst in launching other properties. He noted that “Divergent” has been dated for release on the same slot used last year for the release of “The Hunger Games” and that the books have racked up strong sales.

“Divergent” was published in 2011, followed by “Insurgent” in 2012 and “Allegiant” in October.

UPDATE – Summit has issued a statement saying that scheduling issues have precluded Burger from directing “Insurgent”:

“Neil Burger is a rock star and he is doing a fantastic job on Divergent.  We can’t wait for you to see the film.  But as amazing as Neil is he still cannot be in two places at once and thus needs to finish post production on Divergent while we gear up to start production on Insurgent.  So, although Neil will continue on as part of our Divergent family as an executive producer, we sadly have to find another director for the next chapter in Veronica Roth’s fantastic series.”

 

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