April 11th, 2012
09:39 AM ET
As "The Hunger Games" continues to dominate the box office, director Gary Ross has confirmed that he's stepping away from the franchise.
Reports surfaced last week that Ross was bowing out of helming the next "Hunger Games" film, "Catching Fire," with some citing creative reasons and others speculating he was holding out for a larger payday.
But Ross himself says the issue is one of timing.
"Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct 'Catching Fire,'" he says in a statement. "As a writer and a director, I simply don't have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule."
He adds that "contrary to what has been reported, negotiations with Lionsgate have not been problematic," and that the studio has been "understanding through this difficult decision."
For its part, the studio tells CNN that they're "very sorry" Ross has chosen to part ways with the film, as they were "really looking forward" to creating "Catching Fire" with him.
"[Ross] did an incredible job on the first film and we are grateful for his work," Lionsgate says in its statement. "This will not be the end of our relationship, as we consider Ross to be part of the Lionsgate family and look forward to working with him in the future."
Ross was just as laudatory of the studio and the rest of his filmmaking team in his statement, calling the making of "The Hunger Games" "the happiest experience of my professional life":
"The Hunger Games" has made $306 million at the domestic box office since its March 23 release. "Catching Fire," the second installment in the trilogy of films based on Suzanne Collins' novels, is scheduled to arrive in theaters in November 2013.
Who do you think should take up the director's chair?
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