Jamie Neish: Adaptations not always a sure thing

Daniel Radcliffe playing Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Picture: PA
Daniel Radcliffe playing Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Picture: PA
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Book adaptations have increasingly been seen as no-brainers by film studios. They’re almost certified to make a splash as they come with their own legion of fans.

And for a while they did. Whether it was blockbusters (Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings) or smaller films (The Constant Gardener or last year’s The Fault in Our Stars), easy profits have been made, and awards have even been won in the process.

But in the past few years it’s slowly become clear that book adaptations may not be the be all and end all. Fewer films of existing book properties are making as much money as expected, particularly the ones that require bigger budgets.

Look at the young adult market, for example. The likes of Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games have set a sky-high precedent, though the films that have come since – including the latest Hunger Games instalment – haven’t proven as lucrative.

Divergent did okay at $300 million worldwide but its sequel Insurgent will be lucky to top that. Other young adult properties like Mortal Instruments, Seventh Son and Vampire Academy all failed to last longer than one instalment.

It’s not only young adult adaptations that are struggling though. The Double, which was loved by critics, didn’t make much money back, Edge of Tomorrow was the blockbuster that should have been but never was, and Snowpiercer... well, that’s another story altogether.

Of course, making a profit from a completely unknown property requires a lot more effort than making one from a property with a pre-made fan base. Therefore, it’s grand of anyone to believe that diminishing box office returns are going to put studios off acquiring books and adapting them (the success of Fifty Shades of Grey has likely duped many into thinking there’s no problem). But surely it’ll make them think twice about what’s worth the effort and what isn’t. It should, anyway.