Graham Gillespie explains why it's time for books to return to the big screen.
The film industry in the last few years to a large extent has been defined by films that have been created from pre-existing Intellectual Property (or IP for short), and one of the main places that Hollywood has looked for ideas is the book world. In particular, up until recently we have seen a number of uber-successful multi-film franchises based on books, such as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.
These franchises were built around loyal, predominantly teenage fanbases and yet also managed to capture the wider public’s imagination. This then helped ensure that the box office revenues for some of these franchises ran into the billions (the combined box office intake for all the Harry Potter films is a staggering 7.7 billion dollars). As a result it is hardly surprising that major studios were so found of these franchises which guaranteed them a stable source of income for several years.
Both of the aforementioned franchises have now concluded, as has the Twilight franchise, which was itself a pop-culture phenomenon for a brief period, with seemingly every woman between the ages of 11 and 30 taking a side in the great Edward vs Jacob debate. The loss of these stalwarts has resulted in there being an absence of any truly massive book-based film franchise, which may lead to some questioning: is the era of these type of franchises coming to an end?
In reality however, this is not the case as for the immediate future at least. IP is still king in Hollywood. With so much on the line in many of these major film studios, they often are afraid of adapting brand new ideas, instead opting for stories that have already thrived in a different medium or indeed on the big screen before itself. As of October 3 2017, out of the top twenty grossing films worldwide in 2017, only two films (animated film The Boss Baby and Japanese anime Your Name) are original ideas with the rest either reboots, sequels, or based off comics or books.
There may not be any current major book originated franchises, but there are comic book based like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy and franchises that originated in the cinema like Star Wars and Fast and Furious. The bottom line is that franchises are here to stay, and it shouldn’t be long again before a major book series becomes a breakout success again after getting the blockbuster treatment. Granted there does seem to be greater hesitance by the major studio executives to adapt books, as it can be perceived as bigger risk than remaking a film we’ve already seen. However, as shown by the recent triumph of the new adaption of Stephen King’s classic IT, the film industry will always look to the literary world for inspiration.
Although it may seem as though book to film blockbusters are taking a break for the time being, there is one happening on the small screen. The A Song of Ice and Fire/ Game of Thrones franchise is in many ways the natural successor to the likes of Harry Potter having filled the void that J.K. Rowling’s creation left behind. It does, admittedly, deal with far more adult themes than the Potter series, but then again, this also makes sense considering that many of the adolescents and kids who would have read and watched Harry Potter have now grown up. So perhaps Game of Thrones is the logical progression? Also, with there being a greater amount of time available to tell a story on TV, perhaps this is where we will see more book adaptions in the future that transcend in the same way Game of Thrones and Harry Potter has.
With the two major original idea box office hits of the past year (Get Out and Baby Driver ) seeming to be anomalies rather than the norm, Hollywood will no doubt continue to mine the book industry for the next big thing that will capture our imagination. There will be another major book to film franchise that will get us all in our seats with popcorn at the cinema, it’s just a matter of when, not if.