Book-to-movie productions popular in Hollywood, with readers, fans

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“May the odds be ever in your favor.”

“After all this time?” “Always.”

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

“The Hunger Games,” “Harry Potter,” “Lord of the Rings” — all books that have defined generations — along with the movies that have built off those established fan bases.

In the past few years, book-to-movie productions have sky-rocketed. Popular books have come to life on the big screen, resulting in expanding popularity for the  book title and fan clubs larger than your local book club.

They’re a tough audience to please, the movie-watchers of well-known books. Half of them are faithful bookworms, and have already cast, directed and produced the entire movie in their heads. The other half only know what the previews tell them.

But even taking the tricky viewers into consideration, no one can deny the extreme popularity of movies from books.

The past of movie-made-books

Making movies from books is not a fad — it didn’t just start in the 21st century.

The book-to-movie idea began as early as 1896, when “Trilby and Little Billee” and “The Awakening of Rip” hit the screens, both short, black and white, silent films. By the 1940s, seven out of 10 Oscar winning-movies for ‘Best Picture’ were movies based off of novels.

Since the beginning of the 1900s, hundreds of movies made from their book counterparts have been created, but most were books unbeknownst to the general public, like Minority Report, Casino Royale, Jaws, Mean Girls and The Social Network.

The damsel in distress

The victim to the Hollywood hype is the screenwriter — the one who comes up with the story line for films.

With the popularity of movies from books, stories are pretty much already written — all that’s needed is a little condensing. Thus, screenwriters aren’t as valuable as they could be.

Rachel Getts, the program director for Utah Screenwriter’s Project, attributes the book-made-movie franchise to money and the economy.

“Hollywood seems to be running toward any story pitch with public domain characters,” Getts said. “Rather than pay an author, they can do another reboot of a popular fairy tale. Just look at the multiple Snow White ‘re-imaginings’ coming to the cineplex. A popular book series already has a built-in audience that will go and see the movie no matter whether it’s good or not [and] this has shaped the industry in the last 10 years.”

For screenwriters, the popularity of movies made from books means less of a chance to submit their own material and watch it grow in popularity simply because of its originality. With the slow destruction of original screenwriting, Getts explained, screenwriters themselves have become interchangeable during the development process because they aren’t fully invested.

The investment that is normally coupled with a screenwriter’s own original characters and story line doesn’t lay foundation for a story, and thus results in the screenwriter’s less-than-enthusiastic outlook to take risks or try any dynamic storytelling.

“Original material is more risky [and] requires more development and care,” Getts said. “Unfortunately, this has led to an over reliance on franchises, remakes and conventional film making.”
As America grows more vocally-opinionated, Hollywood directors grow more cautious. The risk of a brand new story is not as appealing as copying a best-selling book.

A positive spin on the movie-going experience

Many folks see the trend as an inspiration to the younger generation — more reading.

In Barbara Vey’s “Beyond Her Book” blog, she explains the positive side of the many movies creating the bookworm’s imagination on the big screen.

“Since this whole books to movies to books thing works, I say make even more good ones,” Vey wrote. “If kids need an addiction, let it be books and I’ll be an enabler. I hope schools wake up and start paying attention by having kids read books in school that would make them enjoy reading.”

Vey’s comments seem to shadow the rise of book sales for the featured movies. A few days after the release of “The Hunger Games” in theaters, Public Scholastic announced that the best-selling trilogy showed a 55 percent increase since the beginning of 2012, leaping from 23.5 million copies in print to 36.5 million copies in print. “The Hunger Games” trilogy has stood on The New York Time’s best-seller list for a solid three years, and with the release of the movie, shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon.

A study by the Nielsen Company shows that before the release of the movie “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One,” the Harry Potter book series jumped in sales.

Hollywood’s own antagonist, the determined bookworm

Though the opening weekends of such movies are filled with rabid fans, there is still much opposition to the ‘inevitable destruction’ of the book name.

“You know what I’m not doing tonight?” tweeted Danny Duke from Salt Lake City. “Going to Hunger Games. The only book series/movie worth it in my lifetime is [‘Lord of the Rings’].”

Duke’s next tweet was along the same lines: “That being said, Harry Potter was a quality book series, but the movies lacked a lot. LOTR crushed it.”

Trevor Ralph, a construction management major from Roswell, Ga., said he understands the difficulty that comes with creating a movie from an immensely popular book, and even though the movies often aren’t what he expected, he still enjoys watching them.

“When you read the books, you connect with the characters and you understand what they’re going through,” Ralph said. “In the movies, a whole bunch of detail and a whole bunch of emotion is left out. You just don’t gain as much connection.”

Despite the lack of connection, Ralph said the pressure to please two different types of audiences must be immense. Ralph claimed to have been a member of both parties: the ones who read the book before the movie came out, and the ones who read the book after the movie came out.

“I didn’t start reading Harry Potter at first — I watched the movie first,” Ralph said. “That gave me a great vision of what the characters looked like, so when I read the books, I had everything planned out. The bad thing with ‘The Hunger Games’ was that I read those books before, and when I watched the movies, a lot of things were different. For instance, I pictured the Cornucopia gold, and they made it a metallic gray.”

From his experience, Ralph said he does his best to view the situation from the director’s point of view.

“It’s harder to please the people who have read the book, and it’s hard to match what they think,” Ralph said, “and that’s probably why people have a hard time watching the movies, because they think, ‘well, that wasn’t the way I pictured it. You directed it this way, but I pictured it this other way.’ For the most part, I think directors do a really good job pleasing people that haven’t read the books, but see the movie first.”

No end in sight

As of now, there doesn’t seem to be an end to the franchise of movies stemming from books. The long-awaited release of “The Hunger Games” movie presented the preview for Stephanie Meyer’s adult novel, “The Host,” now another movie for bookworms to anxiously wait for.

And why should Hollywood stop its trend when it gives way to so many positives? Eager actors and actresses, built-in fan bases, booming opening weekends, an author who’s written out the entire story line. The only person who doesn’t benefit is the screenwriter, and he or she would just mean more money.

For the most part, bookworms won’t complain about the opportunity to see their favorite book made into a movie, even if they know the plot will be butchered.

Sarah Kron, a theater arts education major from Dublin, Ohio, said she believes the book-to-movie trend will continue onward and upward.

“I think that there’s a big enough fan base for most New York Times Bestsellers to keep the trend going,” Kron said, “A lot of movies that have been coming out lately that are ‘original scripts’ (more or less) haven’t been as successful as the books-turned-blockbusters. I’m sure there will be screenwriters that will continue to strive to come out with good ‘original’ movies, but there’s no doubt that the big hits are big hits because they’re already well-known, and therefore already have at least some kind of fan base.”

Kron is more often than not one of the first in line for a movie created from one of her favorite books.

“The best part about seeing the book you love in theaters is the fact that you are already in love with the story, so you hope that the movie will give you even more to love about the story itself,” Kron said. “Plus, it’s this story you’ve crafted in your mind as you read and you get to see it literally come to life on the big screen, with all kinds of crazy effects and such. I love some of the extra stuff that the screenwriters add into the movie, but only as long as they keep the changes minimal and don’t change the story as a whole.”

Many bookworms respect the movie business and its book-to-movie franchise, and respect what Hollywood directors have to deal with when they take on such a big project like “Harry Potter,” “The Hunger Games” or many others.

 

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