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Hunger Games Drama: What's Keeping Gary Ross From Returning for the Sequel, Catching Fire?

Jennifer Lawrence, Gary Ross Kevin Winter/Getty Images

What the heck is going on with the Hunger Games sequel? Is the director really leaving? Isn't that a huge mistake, to let Gary Ross go?

—Elmo the Cloud, via the inbox

Indeed, both Ross and Lionsgate appear to be in a fight to the death. And as any good Hunger Games fan knows, there (usually) can be only one victor. As for what they're really fighting about in their private cornucopia—and they are still hashing it out—I found out ...

MORE: Ross "unofficially" out of the series?

...and it's not what you think. At first, it was thought that Ross was holding out solely for more cash. After all, he earned a relatively low $3 million to do the first installment—on a movie that has raked in 150 times that worldwide—plus 5 percent of the gross.

But as the beef continued to rot, we've learned it's not just about money. Yes, Ross reportedly wants a raise.

But it's also about "politics."

What's the code for? Well, says Ken Basin, an entertainment attorney at Greenberg Glusker, most likely, it's about power, and, on a smaller scale, schedule.

"I definitely see this as code for control and how the creative process is going to play out," Basin tells this B!tch. "The studio is asking to work on a very compressed schedule. They currently have a 4-month window to get a script ready, and Ross may not want to commit to a project whose script may not be very good."

WATCH: See the whole amazing Hunger Games premiere!

The latest rumblings in industry rags seem to suggest the same sticking point.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lionsgate wants Ross & Co. to return to the arena in August, so that star Jennifer Lawrence can wrap in time to shoot the sequel to X-Men: First Class in January.

Experienced directors are less likely to let themselves to be rushed like that, industry experts tell me. And Ross does have some freedom to negotiate; unlike Lawrence and the other principal actors, Ross was not locked down contractually to return for Catching Fire.

But if Ross does leave—and we should know very, very shortly—fans shouldn't necessarily worry.

"In theory, if they bring in another director, they will bring someone cheaper," Basin predicts. "Likely, someone who doesn't have quite the level of experience or cache, someone willing to make more concessions."

Translation: someone willing to work fast enough to get that sequel in the can before the end of the year. The movie might suffer creatively, but at least the franchise won't lose heat. And that's incredibly important, Basin points out—perhaps just as important as a halfway decent script.

"Ross has clearly shown he knows how to work with these actors and the source material, and you don't want to part with that lightly," Basin tells me. "But at the same time, Lionsgate needs to strike while the iron is hot. It's not good for the franchise if fans have to wait three years until the next installment."

PHOTOS: The Hunger Games premiere!

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