ABC News: Big Bucks in Teen Book Series Adaptations – 1

Page 1 2 Big Bucks in Teen Book Series Adaptations Big Bucks in Teen Book Series Adaptations
August 2008
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This Friday, at midnight, as you walk out of the movies with your loved ones, take a peek at the Barnes & Noble next to the theater, and you’re likely to see thousands of teenage girls — along with their moms and possibly even grandmothers — lined up out front.

They’ll be eagerly awaiting their copies of “Breaking Dawn,” the fourth and final book in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, a vampire romance saga that has launched a fanaticism not seen since the likes of “Harry Potter.”

The first three books in the series have sold a combined 8 million copies worldwide. That’s staggering, considering the high-end print run for a teen novel is 500,000. In fact, Entertainment Weekly ran a cover story on the author and her “Twilighters” — what the fans have dubbed themselves — as they gear up for what many bookstores have dubbed Vampire Weekend.

Twilight movieThe success of the books has spawned a hotly anticipated film version, due to hit theaters Dec. 12 and starring Kristen Stewart (“The Messengers,” “Panic Room”) as Bella, an average mortal girl who falls hard for a godlike vampire. Fans have been tracking every move of the film’s production on the Web and even sporting T-shirts that delineate whether they’re Team Edward or Team Jacob, playing out the love triangle in the books.

But “Twilight” is hardly the only teen novel to get the big-screen treatment. “Harry Potter” aside, there’s big bucks to be made in teen book adaptations.

Just ask Les Morgenstein, president of Alloy Entertainment. For years, Morgenstein and his bicoastal crew have been churning out hit teen books — the original company was formed to support the “Sweet Valley High” books. Alloy set up “Roswell,” a series of books for teens about humanlike aliens in high school, which later became a TV series on the WB.

“‘Roswell’ was the lightbulb moment for me that these books we were doing could really translate to film and TV,” Morgenstein said. “We had developed the book property, and then when Hollywood bought the rights, we were sort of pushed out of it. So I thought, ‘Why shouldn’t we get in on the ground floor? It’s all about owning the intellectual property, the concept.’ So now, in New York, we’re developing the book concept, finding the right writer. And in L.A., we’re finding the screenwriter and developing the script. We’re not just in on the ground floor, we are the ground floor.”

Sisterhood of the Traveling PantsMore than 50 of the publishing company’s titles have hit the New York Times Bestseller list, and Alloy has developed book-to-film projects such as “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and its Aug. 6 sequel. The series author, Ann Brashares, was an Alloy editor when she first started writing the books, which have sold more than five million copies.

“When I wrote the series, I never expected it to be turned into a movie,” Brashares said. “But with the success of films like ‘Sex and the City,’ it seems like Hollywood is more open than ever to doing these adaptations, because, after all, we’re all just looking for good stories. And I guess this story really resonated with the audience.”

Alloy returned to the television market with the CW hit “Gossip Girls,” which is based on a series of 10 (and counting) books by Cecily von Ziegesar. On Sept. 9, the company will debut the CW’s “Privileged,” based on another teen tome, “Surviving the Filthy Rich.”

“Other than Marvel, which obviously works a very different way, we’re really the only company that’s doing this,” Morgenstein said. “We’re not just focused on selling books anymore. We’re focused on building brands. We view the projects as competitive entertainment properties, concepts that translate easily to other media like film and television. At the heart of it all is the story, but it has multiple lives. From book to film or TV show to Web property to mobile content and so on. The kids are all over the place these days. So we are too.”

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