Young-adult book-to-movie conversions have been going on for the past decade and even beyond. But this genre is really exploding over the past few years. The past decade was dominated by the Harry Potter series and the Twilight series, and I mean literally dominated as Harry Potter grossed $7.7 billion over eight movies and Twilight grossed $3.3 billion over five movies. Since then the studios have been in search for the next big thing in this genre that can be expanded into a mega franchise and result in not only box-office collections but revenues from all sorts, say collectibles, theme rides, maybe even result in spin-offs in the manner that Harry Potter is going through. The attempts to build those franchises have been relentless, and it is now that we find ourselves in the midst of three such on-going movie series. Trust me, it hasn’t been easy, and despite the pedigree of the books to back the movies as well as the core fanbase, the studios were failing to build anything grand and exemplary. So there was the high-budget Eragon in 2006 which earned close to $250 million worldwide which wasn’t deemed worthy enough of a sequel. The studios took a chance with Percy Jackson series despite the first movie’s mediocre $226 million earnings, but the sequel earned even lower at $200 million which probably is the end of that. We have Inkheart ($62 million), City of Ember ($20 million), I Am Number Four ($150 million), The Spiderwick Chronicles ($163 million), The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones ($91 million), Ender’s Game ($126 million), Beautiful Creatures ($60 million), and Vampire Academy ($15 million); none of these films’ earnings justified the budgets they were made on, and so despite the intentions of building a movie franchise in line with the respective book series, we are likely not going to see anything further.
But these three franchises should keep us occupied for the next couple of years, till the next big thing is discovered.
The Hunger Games series
A lot is already known about this movie series that has taken the world by storm in the past two years and has been the launchpad for Jennifer Lawrence to come across as someone who can carry a huge series on her solitary shoulders. The movie series is based on the trilogy of books written by Suzanne Collins during the period 2008-2010. The first movie The Hunger Games released in 2012 to an opening weekend collection of $152 million in North America, which was astonishing! The sci-fi film based in a dystopian world had action scenes carved out in abundance, but amidst the tension and chaos, it came across as a heartfelt tale of Katniss Everdeen, who was a dutiful daughter and sister, someone’s best friend and a confused lover. Audience loved the many themes of the film, and I am not talking of the teenagers alone, but literally everyone. How else can you explain the whooping $1.55 billion cumulative collection of both the movies, The Hunger Games and its 2013 sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire? Seeing the popular demand, distributor Lionsgate announced the division of the final book into two films, something similar to the way the final chapter was handled in Harry Potter and Twilight series. So we have The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 releasing on November 21, 2014, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 releasing on November 20, 2015, in the USA. Katniss Everdeen’s story is undoubtedly all set to draw more crowds and attention.
The Divergent series
The Divergent series is another sci-fi action adventure set in a dystopian world. The book trilogy has been written by Veronica Roth during the period 2011-2013. There was a lot of buzz about the first movie Divergent prior to its release in March 2014 given the popularity of the books and the presence of emerging star Shailene Woodley. While the movie did not explode at the box-office in the manner that The Hunger Games had done, Divergent has still been a financial success with $288 million worldwide collection as against its $85 million production budget. Woodley has impressed many with her on-screen performance in the lead character of Beatrice aka Tris, and should spearhead the movie series to further success. Summit Entertainment (subsidiary of Lionsgate) has announced the sequel dates already. The Divergent Series: Insurgent will release on March 20, 2015, and the final book will again be divided into two movies, with The Divergent Series: Allegiant – Part 1 to be released on March 18, 2016 and The Divergent Series: Allegiant – Part 2 to be released on March 24, 2017. Veronica Roth has also written a fourth instalment titled Four: A Divergent Collection which is a collection of five short stories told from the perspective of the character Four (played by Theo James in the movies) and acts as a prequel to the trilogy. So if the movie series ends with a bang, then do not be surprised to see a movie adaptation of the prequel too.
The Maze Runner series
The Maze Runner is the latest YA movie to become a commercial success and launch a franchise. The movie released recently, in the current month of September, and has earned $109 million worldwide so far with still a lot of legs left in its theatrical run. What makes this movie impressive in terms of its finances, is its rather modest production budget of $34 million, which is one of the lowest budgets I have seen for movies of this genre. That gives a very impressive return on investment, and so no doubt, 20th Century Fox is eager to come out with the sequels. The book series is a trilogy written by James Dashner during the period 2007-2011, which was followed by a prequel released in 2012 and another prequel announced for 2016. The studio has as of now only announced the movie release of the sequel The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, which will come out on September 18, 2015, in the USA. Assuming that the sequel too does well at the box-office, the final book is also likely to find a movie adaptation. The Maze Runner is also a science-fiction tale in a post-apocalyptic setting. But it is different from the above two series with regards to the lead character which is played by a boy (Dylan O’Brien) rather than a girl, that has led to the movie viewership being skewed higher towards the male audience as compared to the other two movie series. The movie is also more of a dark thriller, absent of the romantic angles that a YA movie typically has. These factors should develop a strong core fanbase for the movie series which will benefit the upcoming films.
While these three movie franchises are right now in the limelight, there would of course be more YA movies unleashed by the studios in coming years with the hope of building another franchise. Sony Pictures is already working on the movie adaptation of The 5th Wave which is the first book in a trilogy written by Rick Yancey (post-apocalyptic surroundings, again, where the world has been devastated by an alien invasion). Chloë Grace Moretz has been cast in the lead role, which definitely gives this January 2016 release more prominence (Read more). Even beyond the franchises, there have been solo movies of this genre that have done well, such as The Fault In Our Stars that had Shailene Woodley in the lead role and also to some extent If I Stay with Chloë Grace Moretz, both movies having released this year. So expect the studios to be persistent with the young-adult themed movies, as they go searching for their golden egg once again.