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‘Hunger’ trilogy grows to four, as Oscar winner cast

LOS ANGELES (AFP) ― The final installment of smash hit movie franchise “The Hunger Games,” based on a trilogy by author Suzanne Collins, is to be split into two films, its producers have announced.

The announcement came after California-based Lionsgate said that Oscar-winning actor-director Philip Seymour Hoffman had been cast in the second instalment, due out next year.

The decision to release the third and fourth movies in November 2014 and 2015 ― targeting the lucrative Thanksgiving holiday in the United States ― follows a similar move by producers of the “Harry Potter” films.

“The Hunger Games,” about children forced to fight for their lives in a Roman circus-style televised blood sport in a post-apocalyptic world, broke U.S. box office records when it was released in March.

“Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” the second installment, is due out on Nov. 22, 2013, according to Lionsgate, a studio based in Santa Monica, California.

And in an online update this week, the production company said “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1” will be released on Nov. 21, 2014, followed a year later by “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2” on Nov. 20, 2015.

Lionsgate revealed earlier this week that Hoffman has been cast in the role of Plutarch Heavensbee, head gamemaker in the second movie.

The actor ― whose recent movies include Oscar-nominated “Moneyball” and “The Ides of March” ― has just finished a Tony Award-nominated run as Willy Loman in a Broadway revival of “Death of a Salesman.”

Lionsgate has also confirmed a new director for the second “Hunger Games” movie, after the first film’s director Gary Ross announced in April that he would not be staying for the sequels.

The blockbuster film has been hyped as a potential successor to the “Twilight” or “Harry Potter” franchises. The latter had four different directors over its eight-movie life.

The last book in JK Rowling’s record-breaking boy wizard story, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” was made into two movies released in 2010 and 2011.

Some critics were disappointed with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I,” saying it lacked action, while the last film, the climax of the seven-book, eight movie blockbuster, was widely praised.

The first “Hunger Games” movie made $152 million in its debut weekend in March, the biggest ever opening weekend for a non-sequel film, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

It has since been beaten by comic superhero flick “The Avengers,” which made an estimated $200 million on its opening weekend in May.