“Harry Potter” started it. “Twilight,” “The Hunger Games” and “The Hobbit” followed soon after. Then Lionsgate announced the studio’s plans to divide the final book in the “Divergent” series into two separate films.
This concept of splitting young adult novels into multiple parts is one of Hollywood’s most recent trends. Media have criticized the fad, but several well-known filmmakers have jumped on the bandwagon.
Director Peter Jackson surprised movie-goers when he announced his plans to split “The Hobbit,” a 300-page book, into not two but three films in 2012.
“It has been an unexpected journey indeed, and in the words of Professor Tolkien himself, ‘a tale that grew in the telling,'” Jackson wrote on his Facebook page in defense of the decision.
Some movie-goers see the trend as a shameless way for studios to make more cash. After all, two movies generally result in twice as much money for filmmakers.
“Hollywood loves a sure bet with costs as they are these days,” said BYU professor of film and literature Dennis Perry. “This phenomenon is merely an extension of why so many sequels are made — the search for guaranteed blockbuster profits.”
Studios are taking advantage of this trend because of the economics behind filmmaking, explained Mitch Davis, a BYU graduate who has written and directed films such as “The Other Side of Heaven.”
“It takes a lot of money to produce a movie, but it takes sometimes even more to promote a movie and to create a brand awareness and an identity for a movie,” Davis said.
Studios spend tens of millions of dollars marketing a film, according to Davis. It is much more cost efficient for studios to split the final movies when adapting a book series because by that point, a franchise has already established itself and garnered loyal fans.
“At the end of the day, economics do dictate,” Davis said. “When art and commerce meet, art is going to lose.”
Other movie-goers feel the trend may indicate that studios today are missing originality. Drew Tekulve is an avid Harry Potter fan. The BYU film major felt that the decision to split the seventh Harry Potter book into two films was justified, but he was disappointed when other franchises with less material made the same move.
“I personally feel that Hollywood has lacked creativity for the past 15 years,” Tekulve said. “Whenever there is a successful film that does something new for the first time, the rest of the studios jump on that.”
Some fans love when popular series are extended into multiple parts. Splitting up the books on the big screen enhances their experience as fans and allows them to see their favorite stories brought to life over and over again.
“When the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy ended, I was devastated,” said BYU film major Olivia Taylor. “When I’m given the opportunity to enjoy Middle Earth again, it’s nice to know that there’ll be more to come.”