Everything We Know About ‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’

The prequel takes viewers back to the beginning of the Hunger Games

Rachel Zegler in "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" (Lionsgate)

The odds of us volunteering as tributes to see the “Hunger Games” prequel? High. Even though “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” takes place long before the star-crossed love triangle of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale Hawthorn (Liam Hemsworth), the Lionsgate prequel film has racked up its own set of stars. Ten years after the original adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s trilogy into four films, Panem’s past can finally come to light, along with President Snow’s.

Francis Lawrence, who directed all but the first “Hunger Games” film, returns to helm the prequel installment, which arrives just in time for Thanksgiving. Here’s everything we know about “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”:

Who’s on the Soundtrack?

Olivia Rodrigo wrote and recorded “Can’t Catch Me Now” for the prequel film. The song was officially confirmed and announced Nov. 1, the same day tickets went on sale. The song comes out Nov. 3.

Will Jennifer Lawrence Return as Katniss?

Sadly, this installment of the young adult dystopia franchise doesn’t include Katniss, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) or Gale (Liam Hemsworth), because it was before their time. The film is set six decades before Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute.

Director Francis Lawrence had a similar question in mind: “Will people come to see the prequel if it doesn’t involve Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss?” He told Empire Magazine that the film’s heroine Lucy Gray Baird is the “anti-Katniss.”

“Katniss was an introvert and a survivor,” he said. “She was quite quiet and stoic, you could almost say [she was] asexual. Lucy Gray is the opposite. She wears her sexuality on her sleeve, [and] she really is a performer.”

Baird does not mirror Katniss’ reluctance to lead the rebellion as the “Mockingjay.”

“She loves crowds,” said Lawrence. “She knows how to play crowds and manipulate people.” May the odds be ever in her favor.

The one thing these women have in common might be the well-executed curtsy and bow they perform as a challenge to the authorities of Panem for the way they keep the citizens under control.

When Is “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” Release Date?

The return to Panem begins Nov. 17, 2023 when “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” releases in theaters nationwide.

Who Is in the Cast — and Which Characters Do They Play?

Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth star as Lucy Gray Baird and Coriolanus Snow, respectively. Viola Davis stars as Dr. Volumnia Gaul, and Peter Dinklage portrays Casca Highbottom, head game-maker. “Euphoria” star Hunger Schafer will appear as Tigris Snow (one of the few characters who did appear in the original “Hunger Games” trilogy), and Ashley Liao will play Clemensia Dovecote. Burn Gorman will play Commander Hoff, and Jason Schwartzman will appear as Lucky Flickerman, ancestor to Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) from the original films. 

What Is the “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” About?

The film is based on Suzanne Collins’ prequel novel, which centers around the 10th annual Hunger Games. 64 years before Katniss tore down the terrible tradition used to control Panem, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) gets the chance to mentor a tribute in the games, but when he is assigned the female from District 12, Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), his hopes of restoring the reputation of his family plummet. In helping Baird outlast the other tributes, Snow could bring glory to his name by out-maneuvering his classmates, who have their own mentees in the games.

How Long Is the Runtime?

The official runtime as of now is 2 hours and 45 minutes, making the prequel film longer than any of the first four. Director Francis Lawrence told Collider that production, which was scheduled for 85 days, clocked in at 84. “Catching Fire” took longer to shoot, but both “Mockingjay” films took 77 days apiece, or 155 days altogether since it was the third book split into two parts.

Will There Be a “Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” Part 2?

According to Lawrence, the film is a stand-alone movie. There is no possibility for a Part 2, which makes sense given the long runtime.

“Honestly, unless Suzanne writes another one, it’s a stand-alone,” Lawrence told Collider. “We did it as one. We didn’t split it. It’s one long movie.”

Watch the Trailer: