Despite The Hunger Games being "the happiest experience of [his] professional life," director Gary Ross has declined to continue helming the franchise as it continues into the second installment of the book trilogy.
"I have decided not to direct Catching Fire," Ross wrote in an official 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."
Lionsgate released their own statement, saying, "We're very sorry that Gary Ross has chosen not to direct Catching Fire. We were really looking forward to making the movie with him. He did an incredible job on the first film and we are grateful for his work. 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."
The Hunger Games' debut set the record for the highest-grossing opening for a non-sequel. The film passed another benchmark over the weekend when its cumulative domestic gross passed the $300 million mark.