Why The Movie Industry Is Turning To Books For Its Biggest Productions

Books turned into movies

The Percy Jackson series was adapted into movies which left the fans both heartbroken and furious. Years later, with the rise of OTT platforms, Disney+ and author, Rick Riordan have joined forces to adapt it into a television series. This is not the first instance where books have been turned into movies or web series. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was one such successful Netflix adaptation, so much so that the second book was also adapted into one, and the third is in the works! 

The Kissing Booth of Wattpad fame was also adapted into a Netflix movie. It proved to be so successful that a sequel was released early this year!

So, why do creators turn to books for their biggest productions? 

Book to screen adaptations have long been on the rise. You could argue that it started with TV shows opting to base their new stories on books – such as The Vampire Diaries which had not one, but two successful spinoffs – The Originals and Legacies; both excellent adaptations based on characters created by a publishing house and contracted to author L.J. Smith. 

While adapting books into movies has been around for ages, television shows or even web series is a considerably new territory. Netflix has been known to option books to adapt into series. Amazon Prime has a dedicated section where series and films based on books are listed. The most recent popular adaptation of Prime has been Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens. He had previously experienced success with the adaptation of American Gods, streaming on both Netflix and Amazon Prime. 

When it comes to the streaming giant Netflix, the list of books turned into movies is endless: starting with Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Adventures, Lucifer (based on the character created by Neil Gaiman), Shadow Hunters, Anne with an E, 13 Reasons Why, and closer to home, Selection Day and Sacred Games. 

The average turnover by book-to-screen adaptations 

But what motivates these adaptations? One reason could be the turnover. Books turned into movies are not without their fair share of profits. In fact, a report published by Forbes revealed that book-to-screen adaptations earn 53% more revenue than original screenplays. The theory is that there is already a ready audience who have heard of the book and cannot wait to see it on screen. Or, audiences hear about the adaptation and buy the source material. A famous example of such is The Handmaid’s Tale which pushed sales of the book, as did the novel, My Cousin Rachel. Publishers’ associations do not have a solid answer for why book-to-screen adaptations work better. All they can offer is an educated guess, which is: audiences like to watch series or movies that were already intellectual properties in their own right. 

According to Business Insider, the Harry Potter Series grossed $7.7 Billion at the box office. The books themselves sold over 500 million copies! A popular book-to-TV adaptation series, Game of Thrones grossed $1 billion – with 30 million users per episode, as reported by Stash Invest and Finance Monthly. The series became so popular that it began to generate a revenue of $88 million per episode during season 8 – their last season. 

According to the PWC report on OTT, the market is all set to grow at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 10.1% during 2017-2022. Closer home in India, the segment is predicted to grow from 297 million USD (19,328 million INR) to 823 million USD (53,630 million INR) in 2020 at a CAGR of 22.6%.

But of course, these predictions were made before we found ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic. 

However, if anything can be taken away from it, it is the learning that OTT platforms are here to stay! With Artemis Fowl deciding to go for a global premiere on Disney+ Hotstar and Bollywood’s adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, titled Dil Bechara, is also slated to release on the OTT platform, and will be made available to both the subscribers and non-subscribers of the platform. 

The Curious Case of Bollywood 

In Bollywood, arguably Chetan Bhagat’s works began the trend of turning books into movies with Five Point Someone adapted into 3 Idiots, and later, 3 Mistakes of my Life made its Bollywood debut as Kai Po Che. Further down in the East, Bengali movies have drawn inspiration from beloved novels by Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay. Parineeta was an adaptation of the Bengali short story of the same name by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. 

But this still begs the question of why filmmakers turn to books as source material for their films or series? The answer seems to be simple: the books would already bring with it a built-in audience. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars was a blockbuster hit because readers were already eagerly waiting for its release. The same argument can be made for Calling Sehmat that was the award-winning Raazi

With Raazi, not only did we get to learn an epic tale but we also saw an empowered woman leading the way; which brings us to why Reese Witherspoon got her company to look at books as source material in the first place. She says she and her daughter realized that in every movie she starred in, there is a moment when she looked at her male lead and asked, “What do we do now?” She says in hindsight, it is downright ridiculous and that women have always been able to figure their way out despite the terrible situations they have found themselves in. She was, therefore, looking for women-driven and women-authored novels. Her company ended up producing Big Little Lies and Little Fire Everywhere – both based on books and both written by women! The ratings proved what a success both of these shows have been. 

The Endgame

In this day and age, there is not only a steady source of content but also a number of channels available by means of which this content can be shared. Now more than ever, good stories are being told. Both books from yesteryears and contemporary times are being made into web series or films. The OTT platforms have proved that there indeed is something for everyone and the large-scale movie industry is certainly following their lead.

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