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Hunger Games: Did Director Gary Ross Drop Out of Sequel Catching Fire?

Hunger Games, Gary Ross Murray Close/Lionsgate; Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

The odds unfortunately may not be in favor of Gary Ross returning to the franchise he helped launch to major box-office success.

A report has surfaced that The Hunger Games helmer has opted to move on to other projects and will not take the reigns on the blockbuster's highly anticipated sequel, Catching Fire.

MORE: Why Did the Hunger Games Movie Change So Much From the Book?

Ross, the screenwriter turned director whose previous films include Pleasantville and Seabiscuit, informed Lionsgate and 20th Century Fox of his decision earlier this week, according to Indiewire. But it had nothing apparently to do with the reported lowball salary both Lionsgate and 20th Century Fox were offering him to remain with the series.

Rather, as the website reports, Ross didn't quite have his heart in spending another two years shepherding a second Katniss tale to the big screen and was more interested in shooting a new script he had written for which he'd get a bigger payday than what the studios offered him for Catching Fire.

This wouldn't be the first time a major Hollywood franchise has lost the filmmaker that set the template for all future movies. Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke handed the reigns over to Chris Weitz to helm New Moon.

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The news comes on the same day sources told the Hollywood Reporter that Lionsgate and Fox have mapped out the shooting schedule for follow-ups to The Hunger Games and the X-Men: First Class sequel. Both star Jennifer Lawrence—as Katniss Everdeen in the former and shape-shifting mutant Mystique in the latter—and the two distributors have worked it out to avoid a conflict.

The actress will begin work on Catching Fire in August or September and will then segue into production on the new X-Men installment next January. That is, of course, once Lionsgate locks down a new director and settles on a satisfactory script.

No word yet on a replacement for Ross. Studio reps as well as Ross' reps have not returned calls for comment.

But given the massive popularity of The Hunger Games, it's no surprise then that Catching Fire already has a release date, as it's slated to unspool on Nov. 22, 2013.

PHOTOS: Flick Pics: The Hunger Games

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