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‘Insurgent’ And Why Young Adult Novels Make Box Office Hits

28 March 2015

From Forbes:

The second installment of Veronica Roth’s dystopian trilogy, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, grabbed $52.3 million in its opening weekend at the U.S. boxoffice, just shy of Divergent’s $54.6 million debut last year. Clocking $47 million worldwide, Insurgent brings the teen action franchise’s total earnings to a plump $388 million so far, with two movies still to come.

Roth, who earned an estimated $17 million last year selling some 7 million books, is but one of many ink spillers whose literary successes have translated into box office hits. Nearly a quarter of the 200 top-grossing films worldwide tallied by Box Office Mojo have been directly adapted from books, excluding children’s tales, comic book or picture book translations.  Of those 48 titles, 16 started as Young Adult novels and earned a collective $13.4 billion at the box office.

Young Adult (YA) fiction – a genre usually designed for readers 12 and up – has become a global powerhouse that reaps dollars from page turners and popcorn crunchers alike.

“These books already have great source material and a die-hard fan base,” said Jodi Reamer, a senior book agent at Writers House who worked with Twilight‘s Stephenie Meyer and The Fault in Our Stars‘ John Green. She says a novel’s built-in audience means YA adaptations are a shoo-in for studios – and profit makers for publishers.

“At most, a publisher is going to spend a million [dollars] on marketing and promotion, but a studio at the very least will spend a million, so there will be a huge audience discovering the books and driving sales,” Reamer explained.

She would know: Twilight‘s vampire love saga notched a total of $3.34 billion at the global box office from its five installments, propelling Meyer to shift over 116 million copies of the series.

Link to the rest at Forbes

Movies/TV, YA

25 Comments to “‘Insurgent’ And Why Young Adult Novels Make Box Office Hits”

  1. “Roth…is but one of many ink spillers…”

    Is this snark against a writer who makes bank writing popular books?

    Good for Roth. Maybe I’ll start reading her stuff.


  2. “These books already have great source material and a die-hard fan base,” said Jodi Reamer.

    Yes, and I think a key success of the movies is that the source material is respected. I remember back when movies based on comics were typically cheesy and dumb, because the directors didn’t take them seriously so they figured no one would care. Then you started getting directors who were into those books, who took the source material seriously, and now you’ve got all these franchises.

    So now YA writers benefit, because directors have figured out that alienating built-in fans is a dumb idea. Well, those YA writers who have the movie rights to their books, anyway.

    As for “ink spiller” — I wonder if that was supposed to be ink slinger? It would make more sense.

  3. …and page turners instead of readers. Maybe the ink spiller is getting paid by the word for this news article?

  4. “I think a key success of the movies is that the source material is respected.”


    Did you think that of, “Insurgent?”

    I quite liked the first one and thought it was reflective of the book.

    “Insurgent,” for me was a real bum burner and little plot or relation to the original book. I noted that Roth was down as exec producer but had taken no part in the screenwriting.


    • I never read the Insurgent books (I have a hard time buying into the very premise of the society in the book***). I only know that the fans of the books seem to enjoy the first movie, which I doubt they would if the movies had insulted the books and their fans. I haven’t heard about fan reaction to the second one yet. I was just speaking in general about the success of the Twilight/Divergent movie franchises.

      ***It violates the “grandma principle,” as in, “Would I believe that wise and sensible Grandma would go for this?” If the answer is no, then I will not believe the entire society would lose its mind, either.

      • Just from what I gathered from the trailers the whole premise seemed one dimensionally juvenile, and the trailers have me scratching my head as to whether the whole thing is some sort of peyote-fueled dementia taking place in some teenager’s head.

        Still, if the fans love it I’ve got to call it a success, because nobody is more picky than a fan judging an adaptation work.

        • Judging movies based on their trailers is just about the worst way to do it. Likewise with judging books by their movie adaptations.

          • True, but then I haven’t scratched my head and though, “what on Earth did I just watch?” quite as hard as I did during the preview for the second movie that played before “Jupiter Ascendent” in theater in a long time.

            As far as the “you’ll be sorted into your best-fit caste at 16” premise… that strikes me as little more than a “rebel against the system” high school clique angst writ large. Obviously people like it, and I’m just glad to see a faithful adaptation even if it doesn’t interest me.

          • It pretty much is what you said, Dustin. With a postapocalyptic or dystopic slant on the story (well, maybe more than a ‘slant’). I saw the preview when watching THE HOBBIT Part 143 (or maybe it only SEEMS that there are 143 parts) and because I’ve read the books, I got most of it. I also got the idea that there are changes between the book and the movie in this second one.

            I found the books to be fun reads (partly because it’s fun to see their postapocalyptic visions of Chicago — a very familiar location for me). But I can be simple-minded sometimes…and there is a simplicity to these escapist stories that works for me…

    • I blame the director.Divergent’s walked in and said where’s the zipline scene? The Insurgent trailer left me not wanting to see the movie.

  5. I like to seize every opportunity I can do declare…

    Team Jacob.

  6. I’m happy for her success but hope the movie people change the ending of the third in the series, or it may not do so well at the box office. She alienated a lot of fans with her ending unfortunately, and she got hit hard in customer reviews on Amazon.

    But good for her for writing a series that the young people took so strongly to.

  7. I wonder what kind of deal she got. Did she sign a not-so-good one with her publisher when she was just a newbie trying to sell a book, which resulted in the company getting the lion’s share of the money from the movie?

    I wouldn’t sneeze at $17 million in a year, certainly, but I wonder if that’s mainly from book sales generated by the movie’s popularity, while the biggest chunk of the ticket sales went to the studio, actors, and publisher. If that’s the case, did Roth get comparatively fleeced?

    I assume those details aren’t public.

  8. For every YA hit, there has been a bloody trail of big-budget failures.

    That said, I don’t think a single one of the authors of those failed tentpoles are complaining about the knock-on effect the movie marketing budgets have had on their book sales.

  9. Well, all I can say is that I hope the YA love continues. Mostly, because I write them.

    Still, I hope they change the ending of the third book and maybe make the science make a bit more sense.

  10. Well, this thread prompted me to order Divergent. And I clicked on the one in the Catalan language. I don’t know why. That’s what happened.

    But I learned how easy it is to return an eBook. A few clicks, and the book was gone.

  11. I never imagined myself writing YA or middlge grade when I began my journey 15 years ago, but, as it happens, my first release is YA, as will be the series. I reject the notion that YA is for teenagers. We did not even label a genre as YA when I was a teen. We just had good books with teen protagonists. The teen protagonist allows me to write as a teen would think–carefree with none of the self-imposed restrictions that plague the adult mind. It’s an opportunity for all of us to revisit that short time in our lives when we could have made a different choice, how we could have done it right this time. I love reading the genre and writing it. My calendar is free if anyone would like to discuss movie rights.

    • I suspect the reason many adults like YA stories is precisely because they allows you to have heroic characters, rather than tediously flawed and angst-ridden. That’s probably why many of these movies do well, despite a silly premise (OK, maybe some aren’t silly, but those I’ve seen certainly were).

      • I think you’re right. The characters are simpler, more black-and-white, and it’s easy to know who to root for and against. Then there are the plots, which aren’t very complicated either, but many of them are VERY imaginative. I was wandering through the stacks of a B&N last night and I saw more books in the YA section that interested me than I saw in the SF section…just by reading the blurbs on the back of the covers…

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