Los Angeles - The hunt is on for a director for the next The Hunger Games movie after the record-breaking film's maker announced he was pulling out of the franchise.
Gary Ross said he will not make the planned sequel Catching Fire for Lionsgate Films, the company behind the movie phenomenon based on a teen book trilogy set in a post-apocalyptic world.
"Despite recent speculation in the media, and after difficult but sincere consideration, I have decided not to direct Catching Fire," Ross said late on Tuesday.
Tight production schedule
"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 added.
Lionsgate issued a statement at the same time, saying it was "very sorry that Gary Ross has chosen not to direct Catching Fire," adding that 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," he added.
The Hunger Games topped last weekend's North America box office for the third straight week, and has made over $300m in North America, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
Set in Panem, a fictional land born of the ashes of a ruined North America, the film stars Jennifer Lawrence as a young girl forced to fight for her life in a Roman circus-style televised blood sport - known as The Hunger Games.
The blockbuster film has been hyped as a potential successor to the Twilight or Harry Potter franchises. The latter had four different directors over its eight-movie life.