There once was a time where an author could write a classic and go down in history. Readers would eagerly await anything else that the author was set to release and they would turn page after page in anticipation of trying to reach the conclusion of the tale. In recent times though, there seems to have been something of a shift. Whereas once it was the book that brought the author fame, it is now the film adaptations that they are best known for. Who harks back to the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming? For most fans, it is all about the films and the greatest successes seem to come from series rather than standalone books.
The power of a series
When looking at modern-day book to film adaptations, two obvious examples spring to mind: Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Although, admittedly the latter was written as a book some 70 plus years ago. Apart from the obvious links to magic and a battle between good and evil, what do these books come films have in common? They form part of a series. With Harry Potter, there were seven books to work your way through while with Lord of the Rings there were three sizeable novels to digest. What does this have to do with how a book adapts to film you may wonder.
A series of books means that there is an unstoppable force when it comes to the film launch. Cracking the first Harry Potter film and pulling it off well meant that the creators knew instantly there was more to come, another 6 books worth in fact. The same with Lord of the Rings. The moment the first film was well-received, there were already two more gifted to the creators on a silver platter. The authors had already told the story. The filmmakers had the job of adapting something that was already great to say the least.
How is success measured when it comes to film adaptations?
When it comes to assessing the success of a book to film adaptation, there are a couple of ways of approaching this. This first is to simply look at the revenue generated by the film whilst the other would be to look at any critical acclaim that the film receives. Films such as Alice in Wonderland and The Hobbit show how adaptations can look great on the big screen, but that it doesn’t necessarily translate to awards.
When considering purely the financial aspect of success, Harry Potter has to be an obvious example. With $1.34 billion generated in revenue from one film alone (Deathly Hallows Part 2), you would be hard pushed to claim this film franchise was a flop. Interestingly though, the book to film adaptations that have generated such revenues, hardly appear at all on rankings from IMDB when it comes to the best films.
The key to success
What can clearly be seen is that for book to film adaptations to work, and work well, the book has to be outstanding in the first place. Indeed, when you look at Harry Potter, the ratings and reviews of the books are far more favourable than those of the films. Yes, films may have a larger audience than books, but for a film, there still has to be something special about the story.
Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings can be considered the most successful book to film adaptations in terms of audience numbers and revenue. They show how filmmakers can benefit by buying into a successful book franchise.