Ross released a statement explaining that he is unable to return due to scheduling conflicts.
Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct Catching Fire. 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.
Just yesterday, Josh Hutcherson, who played district 12 tribute Peeta Mellark (and Katiniss's better half), said that he couldn't imagine another man for the job.
"I think Gary's the man," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "Gary in my mind is the only one that could ever direct the second one. That's what I'm sticking to."
Ross's statement was also dedicated to setting the record straight on the much-speculated troubles between the director and Lionsgate.
"Lionsgate was supportive of me in a manner that few directors ever experience in a franchise...And contrary to what has been reported, negotiations with Lionsgate have not been problematic," he wrote.
However, after Ross fought to helm the now movie-crushing blockbuster, at least one film exec at Lionsgate told Deadline.com's Nikki Finke that they are "in shock."