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Hunger Games Prequel Movie Release Date, Characters And Plot

It's been nearly five years since we last saw Katniss Everdeen and her band of District 13 rebels on the big screen in the closing chapter to The Hunger Games franchise. While The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II was indeed the final entry in their own big-screen tale of triumph over tyranny, fans of the beloved cinematic series and the bestselling books they're based on will soon return to Panem for a new installment. The Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins has penned a prequel novel that unfolds 64 years prior to the first book. News of the prequel novel initially broke in the summer of 2019, and a few months later, it was announced that the book is titled The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

What's arguably even more exciting is the news that Lionsgate Films, the same studio behind the Hunger Games film franchise, is already planning to give The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes the silver-screen treatment. Here's a look at everything we know so far about the Hunger Games prequel movie.

What's the release date for the Hunger Games prequel movie?

We're guessing many of you are surprised that more Hunger Games stories are on the way. But the fact remains Suzanne Collins' books continually topped the New York Times bestsellers list, and spawned a franchise that raked in nearly $3 billion worldwide. Suffice to say, The Hunger Games tales have become a money-making machine over the years, so it makes sense that aa new Hunger Games tale is about to hit bookshelves and is on the road to the big screen.

As for exactly when The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will hit said big screen, its release date will be later rather than sooner. That's largely due to the fact that the new book isn't slated to hit shelves until May 19, 2020. While it's not uncommon for a book to sell theatrical rights prior to being released — especially one connected to a blockbuster film franchise like The Hunger Games — it's far from the norm for a film to be fully in development ahead of publication. Though Lionsgate is keen to turn the Hunger Games prequel into a movie, it's probable the studio hasn't done much actual production work as of this writing.

That said, Lionsgate chairman Joe Drake did offer a nugget of hope to anxious fans by telling Deadline in June 2019, "We've been communicating with her [Collins] during the writing process and we look forward to continuing to work closely with her on the movie." So it sounds like Lionsgate is at least getting ahead of matters by fast-tracking the Hunger Games prequel movie, though we'd still be shocked if The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes hit theaters before 2022.

Who are the main characters in the Hunger Games prequel movie?

We may not know when The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes film adaptation will find its way to the big screen, but the good news is that fans won't have to wait too long to devour Collins' new story. With the new book's release just a couple of months away from the time of this writing, Scholastic Publishing has recently let loose a few of the stories' key details — the most intriguing of which regard characters.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will feature the return of a very familiar character from Panem: the president-slash-dictator of the Districts of Panem, Coriolanus Snow. That's surprising enough information since the character was depicted as a brutal tyrant and the biggest of bads in both Collins' novels and their cinematic adaptations (in which he was played with mirthful menace by Donald Sutherland). Even more surprising is that Snow is to be the hero of Collins' prequel novel. That means he'll clearly be at the center of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes movie as well, though Sutherland will obviously be re-cast as no amount of de-aging tech can legitimately make him look 64 years younger.

As for which other characters might be joining young Coriolanus Snow in the film, we honestly don't know yet. But from taking a look at an excerpt from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes currently available to read on Entertainment Weekly, we can confirm that Dean Highbottom — the madman who first brought the Hunger Games to Panem — will feature in the story somehow. So too will a few new Games participants when they step into the Arena to face off against Snow.

What's the plot of The Hunger Games prequel movie?

Plot details for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes are mostly being kept under wraps, but it seems much of the new story will follow Snow's own experience participating in the Hunger Games. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is set 64 years prior to the original The Hunger Games book, which means we'll be seeing a teenaged version of Snow long before his downward spiral into the murderous dictator we know he'll become. It also means we'll likely see what sets Snow on the path to transforming from a hero to the vilest of villains. 

While Snow is the focal point of The Hunger Games prequel, it appears Collins is most concerned with the dystopian world he'll one day rule. She shared in a statement (via The Associated Press) explaining, "With this book, I wanted to explore the state of nature, who we are, and what we perceive is required for our survival. The reconstruction period ten years after the war, commonly referred to as the Dark Days — as the country of Panem struggles back to its feet — provides fertile ground for characters to grapple with these questions and thereby define their views of humanity."

As humanity itself was frequently under siege and/or under the microscope in the original The Hunger Games books and films, it's hardly a surprise that Collins would seek to revisit those themes in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Still, it should be fascinating to see what humanity was actually like a few decades ahead of Katniss' rebellion — and more specifically through the eyes of the man she helped overthrow.