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Regina Brooks

Regina Brooks

Posted: November 6, 2009 06:07 PM

More and more, the titles showing up in movie previews are familiar -- you've seen them on your bookshelf. It's true for both adult books (think The Time Traveler's Wife and The Notebook) and teen reads, but arguably the move from the Young Adult novel to big screen has been met with far more enthusiasm and monetary success.

Movies based on YA books are, of course, nothing new. We've all sat through film adaptations of our assigned reading in English class (or, alternately, skipped the reading and just watched the movie). But these days, if a YA novel does tremendously well, it's only a matter of months before rumors of the movie start circulating. So now, the term 'blockbuster' has migrated from the movie theater into the arena of literature.

When did this trend begin? Arguably, one can point to the Harry Potter franchise. Midnight openings were unheard of before J.K. Rowling came along; after Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, they came to be expected -- for both popular books and their movie adaptations. The first movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, grossed over $975 million worldwide. Kids, teens, and adults alike lined up around the block in costumes, and they have done so for every book and movie since.

It seems like the smashing success of the Harry Potter movies has opened the door to more and more adaptations of contemporary YA lit. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, originally penned by Ann Brashares, has been made into two successful movies. Only the Twilight saga, however, has matched Harry Potter in fanbase and commercial success. The first Twilight movie alone opened to the tune of $70.6 million, according to E! online. Predictably, over half of that audience (according to exit polls) was under the age of 25. Teens are the driving force of the popularity of these books and these movies, and it's the success they create that drives producers to try and replicate those results. The premiere of the second Twilight movie, New Moon, in November is sure to have the teens coming out in droves and delivering sky-high numbers once again.

Of course, not all books that have been made into movies have seen such monetary success. The Golden Compass, originally by Philip Pullman, has long been recommended to teens who loved Harry Potter in bookstores. The comparison just didn't translate into film, though. Opening weekend turned out to be a disappointing $25.8 million, although the film was much better received overseas. Similarly, some classics such as The Chronicles of Narnia have garnished critical acclaim, but didn't draw the same blockbuster crowds as Twilight and Harry Potter.

Nevertheless, Hollywood continues to bring out the movies based on popular YA books, because the guarantee of an audience is just too good to pass up. A Series of Unfortunate Events, Holes, Hoot, Coraline, Eragon and Inkheart are just a few titles that follow in this line of thinking. Although this is by no means a new trend (see Mrs. Doubtfire, based on Alias Mrs. Doubtfire, and the numerous adaptations for classics such as Little Women and Anne of Green Gables), it certainly seems as though the YA book-turned-screenplay movies are coming fast and furious these days. And for good reason - the movie industry is guaranteed an audience, and the publishing industry is guaranteed renewed interest in the book. It's a win-win situation, and one that has publishers and producers salivating and waiting around for the next bestselling YA book a la Harry Potter or Twilight.

To tide them over until then, the recently released YA-to-movie is Darren Shan's 'Vampire's Assistant, a spooky series summed up in a single movie that came out just in time for Halloween. Although there was considerable "buzz," it opened to a scant 2.2 million in its opening day. The books, however, are flying off the shelf! Fans of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins are also eagerly awaiting casting information for their beloved book. These days, if a book has a sizable fanbase, it's likely going to get turned into a movie. So if you're bemoaning the end of the latest hot YA novel, and wishing there was more to come, be happy! You'll probably be able to see it on the big screen soon.


 

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