‘Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ Trailer Kills at CinemaCon

The prequel starring Rachel Zegler is set to hit theaters on Friday, November 17.
Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
"The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes"
Murray Close/Lionsgate

The odds were ever in the favor of the crowd at CinemaCon, which was treated to the first trailer for “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.” The upcoming prequel film delves into the history of how the games as we’ve come to know them got their start. The first look was a fitting conclusion to a long week in Vegas.

It’s been a busy week at CinemaCon, with every major studio attempting to generate hype for its upcoming slate of blockbusters. Highlights so far include a buzzy new trailer for “Oppenheimer,” which debuted alongside new footage from “Barbie,” “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” and “Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part I.”

But in Lionsgate’s presentation on Thursday afternoon, audiences finally understood just how Lionsgate intends to revitalize one of their flagship franchises. The trailer prominently features its adult cast of Viola Davis dressed in the wildest Panem garb, Peter Dinklage in full Tyrion Lannister menace, and Jason Schwartzman as the ancestor to Cesar Flickerman giving some familiar vibes to the original series of films.

The prequel — which is directed by franchise regular Francis Lawrence and written by Suzanne Collins, Michael Lesslie, and Michael Arndt — takes place more than half a century before the events of 2012’s “The Hunger Games.” While the story of Katniss Everdeen began at the 74th annual Hunger Games, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is set during the 10th edition. The prequel promises to fill in gaps in the series’ mythology and offer an origin story for Panem President Coriolanus Snow, who was originally played by Donald Sutherland.

Tom Blyth stars as an 18-year-old version of Snow, then a veteran of the dystopian sporting event who is tasked with mentoring Lucy Gray, a young District 12 tribute played by Rachel Zegler. More specifically, the trailer shows that though this is not the first Hunger Games or Reaping, it is the first time that the Games are becoming an “event” and sensationalized television. The trailer has the look of vintage Panem but also shows more old fashioned, tube televisions and other retro technology. Even the arena where the Hunger Games take place is not some sprawling, exotic landscape but a far smaller room with just a few obstacles. And Snow is hardly the villain but a hunk (yes, he’s briefly shirtless in the trailer) who eventually becomes complicit in the Capitol’s games.

“Do you hear that? It’s the sound of snow…falling,” Dinklage’s character says to Snow in the trailer.

Per Lionsgate’s official synopsis, after Lucy Gray commands all of Panem’s attention by defiantly singing during the reaping ceremony, Snow thinks he might be able to turn the odds in their favor. Uniting their instincts for showmanship and newfound political savvy, Snow and Lucy’s race against time to survive will ultimately reveal who is a songbird, and who is a snake.

In addition to Zegler and Blyth, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” stars Viola Davis, Peter Dinklage, Jason Schwartzman, Hunter Schafer, Burn Gorman, and Fionnula Flanagan.

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” was first announced at last year’s CinemaCon, with Lionsgate expressing hope that a rebooted “Hunger Games” series could provide the IP-deprived company with another popular franchise to pair with its “John Wick” series.

“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is set to open in theaters on Friday, November 17. Watch the trailer below.

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