The speculation is over: Lionsgate has officially announced that Francis Lawrence will direct "Catching Fire," the sure-to-be-epic follow-up to "The Hunger Games."

Lawrence is replacing Gary Ross, who didn't feel he could deliver the sequel in time for the immovable November 22, 2013 release date.

Ross' move didn't necessarily sit well with the cast -- Josh Hutcherson told THR, "Gary in my mind is the only one that could ever direct the second one" -- or legions of fans, but the show must go on as scheduled.

In a statement released to Movieline, producer Nina Jacobson praised Lawrence, (whose previous films include "I Am Legend" and "Water for Elephants"), saying "From my first conversation with Francis, I knew he would make a great partner for both me and Suzanne. His passion for 'Catching Fire 'and inspired ideas for a faithful adaptation make him the perfect director for this movie. I know this will be a wonderful collaboration and I cannot wait to get started."

Lawrence is understandably happy to be on board one of Hollywood's biggest franchises, stating, "It is truly an honor and a privilege to bring 'Catching Fire,' the second chapter of Suzanne's beloved trilogy, to the big screen. I fell in love with the characters, the themes and the world she created and this chapter opens all of these elements up in such a thrilling, emotional and surprising way. I can't wait to dive right into it and bring this chapter to life along with the truly superb cast and filmmakers involved."

[via Movieline]
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