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'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay': Lionsgate Will Split The Final 'Games' Book In Two; Announces Release Dates

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What has been rumored for more than a year is now official: Lionsgate will split "Mockingjay," the final book in Suzanne Collins' best-selling "Hunger Games" trilogy, into two films, the studio announced on Tuesday. "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1" will arrive in theaters on Nov. 21, 2014; "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2" hits screens on Nov. 20, 2015.

For fans of the franchise, this isn't necessarily news. Rumors of Lionsgate halving "Mockingjay" have circulated since June of 2011 when studio representatives told Wall Street analysts that the series of four films would provide a financial boon for the company. That was never confirmed, however, and even as recently as March of this year, producers were still denying the existence of two films.

"[It's] not set in stone," producer Nina Jacobson told MTV. "Still figuring it all out. Honestly, I think, first go from one movie to the next."

This isn't the first time a popular YA franchise has split its final book into two features: Both "Twilight: Breaking Dawn" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" were fractured. This strategy allows for dense narratives to make it to the screen whole, while also providing studios with maximum financial impact at the box office.

Of course whether "Mockingjay" can withstand the split remains to be seen. Fans of Collins' trilogy are often critical of the final book, which features some pretty significant plot twists. "Mockingjay" is also incredibly violent -- perhaps even more than the first two books put together.

"Catching Fire," the second book in the "Games" trilogy, is scheduled to start shooting soon in preparation for its Nov. 22, 2013 release. Francis Lawrence directs, with Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jena Malone, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz set to star.

[via Deadline.com]

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