Thursday, 7 November 2013

Discussion Post: YA Movie Adaptations and Bad Box Office

I've been meaning to write about this subject for a while, mostly because I love movie adaptations of YA and children's books. Even if they're not the best, I still enjoy them and like seeing which parts of the books work and which don't when it comes to writing a screenplay for a film. It's such a different medium, so of course there are going to be changes. They're not always for the better, but they're usually needed and can be explained.

Why is it, then, that recent YA book to movie adaptations just haven't been doing very well? After the success of two huge franchises, Harry Potter and Twilight, have young audiences grown tired of them? Are cinema tickets priced too high? Or is it a case of bad advertising? I'm interested to know.

Earlier this year I saw Beautiful Creatures and The Host films. I thoroughly enjoyed Beautiful Creatures even though I haven't read the book, yet I thought The Host was boring and nothing like its literary counterpart. Neither film performed well at the box office; Beautiful Creatures only took $60 million at the worldwide box office - as much as its budget - while The Host took $48 million on the back of a $40 million budget. Both grossly under performed and I'm quite sure neither will ever get a sequel (of course, Stephenie Meyer would actually have to write more).

Similarly, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was released in August and only grossed $14 million in its opening weekend in the US. It's budget was $60 million plus a further $60 million for overseas marketing, yet it has really struggled. It has at least made its budget back and secured a sequel, but I'm shocked by how much it underperformed. What I want to know is: WHY? What's going on? These book series have millions of fans - Cassie Clare has sold over 24 million copies of The Mortal Instruments series, yet numbers for the movie just weren't there. I personally think the City of Bones marketing was fine, better than other campaigns of a similar nature, but I think the release date was off. It was almost the end of August, schools were starting back, people were on holiday and blockbuster season was over. It's a shame, because I love the film and think it's one of the better YA adaptations out there (I've seen it six times. Ahem.).

The Hunger Games is one of the recent adaptations that has made it big, in terms of both box office and sales and word of mouth. I'm not personally a fan of the film, but I'd like to know why this one did so well but City of Bones didn't. Why did those millions of readers translate for one film and not the other? If anyone can shed any light or opinions on this, I'm all ears.

I truly think upcoming adaptations are going to struggle financially, especially when it comes to making money at the box office. I'm sure Blu-ray and DVD sales will be good, but that doesn't initially help or guarantee a sequel. I'm a bit surprised that Divergent and The Maze Runner have both been filmed and are due for a 2014 release, because they're just not big sellers or household names. I work in a bookshop and I'm not sure we've ever sold a copy of The Maze Runner. It's not a book I hear people talking about, and I don't think the film will do well. Same goes for Divergent - it sells better, yes, but not in big numbers (though it does have Kate Winslet going for it!). Also, the trailer is confusing for those who haven't read the book. I'm convinced both of these will fail at the box office; I mean, if City of Bones under performs, what chance have these two got?

I could say the same thing about the upcoming How I Live Now and The Book Thief films. I desperately want The Book Thief to do well because it's my favourite book and I love Markus Zusak and the characters and everything, but is the audience there? I think it'll appeal more to an older age group, like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas did. Its excellent trailers will help it along, which is also something that How I Live Now has. A the time of writing this post, I hadn't read that book either but the trailer made me want to (I've since read it and didn't like it at all). Again, though, will anyone go and watch it? Unless reviews and word of mouth is very good, I'm guessing no.

I know the readers and audiences are there when it comes to these adaptations hitting cinema screens, but I can't for the life of me figure out why they're not going to see them. Critic's reviews are rarely favourable for this kind of film, and of course that never helps matters. But surely the fans don't pay attention to those reviews. Do they? I hope not, because everyone is different and no one person should put you off seeing a film. Like reading, it's all subjective.

There are many more adaptations I could mention: City of Ember, Percy Jackson, Warm Bodies etc., but I'd be here forever. None of them have reached Twilight or Harry Potter heights, and I'm not sure any future ones will either. It's possible that the time of book-to-film adaptations has passed, probably due to existing fans being somewhat bombarded with them and non-readers being put off by the Twilight Effect. I hope they find their feet again soon because I for one will always go and watch them, on opening day if possible and multiple times if I like it enough. Some of these films aren't getting the recognition they deserve, and that's a great shame.


Priscilla Tsang said...

I totally agree. I'm a huge fan of the Percy Jackson series, and I quite like watching the first film as an individual. But to think it was an adaptation? Not at all what it should be, so I never went to watch the sequel.

I've also watched the City of Bones movie. At first, I was attracted by the trailer and the large number of people reading the series, which made me want to read the actual book, as I usually do. But I decided to put it off this time since the last book is almost out (and I don't like to wait), and I went to watch the film, which I think is pretty amusing.

I'm shocked to know it didn't do well. But I, myself did hesitate for a while before deciding to watch the film, and that of Hunger Games, which I also think is good (though I admit I didn't give it enough credit since my expectations were too high). I believe the reason behind all this is because of the huge amount of these films that are coming out. Too many adaptations and too little good ones live up to the fandoms' expectations. As much as I know, most of the Percy Jackson fandom quite hate the film, though personally, I quite like an individual but not an adaptation, as I said. But that is Disney, I guess, I can see/feel the targets are children and the rewriting of the plot is quite necessary for children to better understand and follow the flow of it, but I still think it changed too much and the whole idea of Percy Jackson was kind of twisted. It's just a film that borrowed the names and Greek myths settings. To me, it's merely an inspiration, not really an adaptation. Sometimes, I would think this kind of films really destroy the names of the originals.

caroline.taylor078 said...

Its tough to understand isn't it, I went to the cinema to see the Harry Potter films, all the Twilight ones, Mortal Instruments, Beautiful Creatures and The Hunger Games. I loved them all. (I did think Mortal Instruments dragged on a bit too long though.)
After all the hype I really expected TMI to be a really big hit and the next film sensation so I was shocked when it flopped and the sequel was up in the air. I was seeing the cast all over the place so the promotion was spot on. I am really wondering how Divergent will do but I'm not too hopeful, I do hear a lot of buzz about it but I think that's due to the amount of book bloggers I follow on twitter. I think Vampire Academy will really flop even though I will watch it, I think it looks pretty cheap. Its a shame because they are enjoyable and I think we'll be seeing less and less of them.

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

I couldn't believe that City of Bones did so badly. I think it's definitely one of better adaptations of recent years - the casting was spot on, the sets were gorgeous and I just think it translated so, so well.

I'm not quite sure if How I Live Now did well or not, but I really, really enjoyed the film. And that's saying a lot - you know how much I love the book! But I think they took it away from the book in a more cinema and audience-friendly direction to broaden the audience. I really hope it worked as it's a beautiful film.

Julia Swift Andrew Landis said...

One of the movie adaptations that I thought deserved more recognition was Perks of Being a Wallflower. I know it's not a big action-y movie, but years after the book's release, Perks continues to be ranked in the top 10 or 15 on the New York Times' YA best seller list so we know people are still discovering the book. And the wonderful movie adaptation was handled by the writer of the book, who directed it, which is quite rare. So I have no idea. But thanks for the thoughtful post.

La La in the LiBrArY said...

There are too many being done and being done to appeal to nonreaders.

Melissa Bookmark Dragon said...

I'm probably one of the only people left who hasn't yet read The Mortal Instruments series, but I saw the movie anyway. I have to admit, I thought the movie was well cast, had great sets, cinematography, etc. However, the script was clunky and muddled and confusing. The whole movie long my husband and I kept on asking each other, "what's happening?" and responding, "I have no idea." There was too much going on, and too little explanation for those of us who had zero previous encounters with the story. I could tell that there was a good story underneath the apparent angst and dramatic fights with supernatural creatures, I just couldn't tell what that story was. Oddly, because there was so much going on, I kept thinking to myself, "this would make a great book." I'm assured that is the case.

On the broader topic of book-to-film adaptations, I think the problem is that the film creators cannot decide between making these movies for the original fans of the book, or for making them for an entirely new audience of non-readers. Each approach would produce a very different film, and could potentially succeed, but trying to accomplish both rarely succeeds, in my opinion.