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ASU, Lionsgate team up to offer students special access


Students packed into a theater.
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November 16, 2023

Students at Arizona State University had the opportunity to experience the new Hunger Games prequel, “Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” weeks ahead of its worldwide release in theaters, thanks to a relationship between The Sidney Poitier New American Film School and Lionsgate, the studio that produced the film.

In addition to a screening that was held at an AMC theater for students in Los Angeles, Lionsgate and ASU also teamed up to offer two viewings of “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” at the MIX Center in Mesa, as well as a screening of “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” that was followed by an exclusive Q&A with writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig and producer Julie Ansell.

“At ASU, not only do we have professors who — thanks to genuine experience in the industry — can give us the big picture of what to expect in our own careers, but access to and conversations with recognizable filmmakers (that) gives us the opportunity to inquire about niche subjects that we might not get a chance to talk about in class,” said Peyton Berry, an ASU film school student who attended the screening of “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” as well as the Q&A that followed.

“When we had our discussion with Kelly Fremon Craig, I heard questions about production design, improvised dialogue and a lot of topics that you normally wouldn’t discuss in a classroom. I think that’s going to be huge for the next generation of filmmakers, if we get to talk to the previous ones about things that might get overlooked in our courses.”

Students in line to go into theater

Students check in for the screening of “Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” at the ASU Mix Center on Nov. 12. Photo by Ghassan Al Balushi

“We are thrilled to be working with Lionsgate to bring these exclusive opportunities to our students,” said Cheryl Boone Isaacs, founding director of The Sidney Poitier New American Film School. “It’s not just the excitement of getting to see a blockbuster film before its release, but the value of getting to learn from and ask questions of successful Hollywood filmmakers in intimate Q&As.

"We are looking forward to growing this partnership and providing even more thrilling opportunities to our students.”

Michael Burns, the vice chairman of Lionsgate, is an ASU alum who was honored with an Alumni Achievement Award at Founders’ Day in 2017 for his role in building Lionsgate. In his 22 years there, Lionsgate has grown from a small independent film studio to a diversified global entertainment giant.

“I’m pleased that the Sidney Poitier New American Film School had one of the first screenings of ‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,’” Burns said. “We’re very proud of the latest chapter in our 'Hunger Games' franchise, part of a great lineup of Lionsgate movies and talent that we’ll be bringing to the next generation of filmmakers at the Poitier School.

"May the odds be ever in your favor.”

Top photo: ASU students packed the theater at the MIX Center to see a special advance screening of “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” starring Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler and Viola Davis on Sunday, Nov. 12. Photo by Ghassan Al Balushi

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