<i>Hunger Games</i> Director Gary Ross Won't Return For <i>Catching Fire</i>

Even as Lionsgate locked down an August-September start date for the sequel to its $378 million (and counting) blockbuster The Hunger Games, it appears to have lost its director.

The Playlist reports that Gary Ross, who took a pay cut to write and direct the adaptation of Suzanne Colline's bestselling novel, gave formal notice earlier this week to the studio that he won't return for Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Although the Hollywood rumor mill had suggested money as the sticking sticking point -- Ross was paid a low $3 million to direct and co-write, but receives 5 percent of backend -- Playlist contends the filmmaker lacked "the burning desire" to return for a sequel.

Lionsgate signed stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth for the sequel, and has a script in hand from Slumdog Millionaire screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, but reportedly didn't begin negotiating with Ross until about three weeks before the March 23 opening of The Hunger Games.

Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens Nov. 22, 2013.

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