ABC News: Big Bucks in Teen Book Series Adaptations – 2

Page 1 2 Big Bucks in Teen Book Series Adaptations Big Bucks in Teen Book Series Adaptations
August 2008
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Nick and Norah's Infinite PlaylistWhile it’s hardly a new trend — remember “The Princess Diaries” and “Ella Enchanted”? — why is it booming now?

“There’s definitely a lot of spending power there that Hollywood is discovering,” Morgenstein said. “But like everything in Hollywood, it’s cyclical, it comes in waves. And right now, especially with teen girls, we’re in an upswing.”

If the upcoming slate of Hollywood films from teen books is any indicator — including “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” on Oct. 3, “The Secret Life of Bees” on Oct. 17 and “Sex Drive” (adapted from the Alloy book “All the Way”) on Oct. 10 — the trend will continue.

And let’s not forget the “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth film in the series, due Nov. 21. Also in development are film adaptations of “The Keys to the Golden Firebird,” Marina Budhos’ “Ask Me No Questions” and the “Au Pairs” series, penned by “Gossip Girls” producer Stephanie Savage. Plus, Alloy plans to release a straight-to-DVD version of its best-selling series “Clique” on Nov. 11.

Professor Richard Walter, UCLA ‘s screenwriting chairman, believes the girl power thing plays into it a bit. “The success of female films parallels the expansion of female talent among writers, producers and studio chiefs,” he pointed out. “Coincidence? I don’t think so. Maybe there’s a keener sense of what sort of programming would appeal to women.”

Ella EnchantedAnd there’s a keener sense that female audiences can stir up big box office. Former Scholastic editor turned film producer Jane Startz, who has produced film adaptations of teen books such as “Tuck Everlasting” and “Ella Enchanted,” suggests it’s the young readers themselves who are creating the demand.

“This trend doesn’t come as a surprise to me at all. As with all businesses, it’s a viral phenomenon,” said Startz, who’s currently developing a string of teen book-based projects, including Judy Blume’s classic “Deenie.” “Girls are voracious readers. They spend money on books. So if you’re making a film version of a successful book like ‘Twilight’ or ‘Traveling Pants,’ you’re one step ahead already. It’s a presold audience.”

But UCLA’s Walter also sees the flip side of this coin. And it is all about coin. “Whatever happened to the original?” he laments. “Everything is an adaptation or a remake or sequel or prequel or franchise. Hasbro has a deal to turn board games into movies. What drives this? Executives’ need to blame someone or something for the anticipated failure of the particular venture. It’s, ‘Hey, it’s not my fault it lost a zillion dollars; it’s based on a bestselling book or a popular movie or TV show or board game.’ To me the obsession with adaptation and the reluctance to produce original fare represents the suffocation of the imagination. They don’t want to take risks, even though adaptations are themselves risky. Most of them fail, don’t they?”

Not so, said Startz, again citing the success of “Sex and the City” and the allegiance women had to its theatrical version.

“In this market, the rule of thumb is that you cater to males, but there are other segments of the population out there, waiting to be entertained,” said Startz, whose latest adaptation is a teen series based on “The Squad,” by Jennifer Barnes, for cable network The N. “And with females, once you’re hooked, you’re hooked. When they find something they like, they’ll go back over and over and over. The appetite is there, especially with these book adaptations. They’re invested, they’ve formed a relationship with these characters. What better way to get girls — and their moms — to the box office?”


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