May the box office be ever in your favor – “Hunger Games” sequel already in the works

Elizabeth Banks is all dressed up with no place to go, and Jennifer Lawrence is all dressed down and ready for battle in "The Hunger Games."

Although Nina Jacobson, the veteran Hollywood exec-turned-producer, has been cautious when it comes to talking sequels for The Hunger Games, the writing is on the wall -- and all over the Internet. On Wednesday, Fandango, one of the leading online movie ticket outlets, reported that the $100 million Lionsgate release, an adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ bestselling young-adult novel, was the top-selling franchise opener and non-sequel in the company’s 12-year history, on track to become one of the top-selling movies of all time. (Note the term "franchise opener.")

Jacobson, who acquired the film rights shortly after The Hunger Games was published by Scholastic in 2008, did say in an interview last week that Lionsgate has “planted their flag” for Catching Fire, the second installment in Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. The studio's designated release date: Thanksgiving, 2013.

“If everything goes well, that’s when we plan to release the next movie, so we have our work cut out for us,” Jacobson said from London last week. “But we’re also trying to take it one step at a time and make sure that audiences ask for a sequel, because ultimately that’s really up to them. And hopefully they will, and we’ll be there to give it to them.”

The script, Jacobson says, is being worked on now. In Catching Fire, Katniss Everdeen returns victorious from the Games. (Is that a spoiler? Only to the three people who haven’t read the books.) Our teenage heroine runs afoul of the president of Panem, and then, along with her District 12 teammate, Peeta, is forced to join up for the 75th Hunger Games, in which 24 victorious “Tributes” from previous years must compete yet again. Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson are both expected to return. Look for Mockingjay, an adaptation of the final book in the trilogy, to come relatively quickly thereafter, before the two stars, both now in their 20s, get a little too long in the tooth, or teeth.