2 things the Hunger Games film reminds us about the book industry

March 23, 2012 § 9 Comments

It’s not a big secret that I’m pretty conflicted about books that are made into movies, even (and sometimes especially) if the movies turn out good. That said, it’s been incredibly encouraging to see all the hubbub created by the release of the first Hunger Games movie. I’ve talked to dozens of people who would never have heard of the book if it weren’t for the movie, many of them who were reading it to see what the commotion is all about. Even better–“something better than getting people reading?!” you ask–yes, even better is that it’s getting people talking about the themes of the book, like privileged people taking what they have for granted and turning a blind eye to the suffering of others, and being used by non-profits as an opportunity to raise awareness about world hunger.

And I have to admit that it would be dishonest of me to say that I haven’t been stoked to see it.

So rather than get down about the fact that many times more people are going to see the movie than will ever read the book, I’m looking at the positive.

If you haven’t noticed, it seems like every year more books are adapted for the screen, and it’s not just the book industry that Hollywood is borrowing from. The past decade has been defined by superhero movies as well as remakes and sequels that rarely compete with the originals, not to mention basing movies on toy franchises. It’s gotten to the point that they’re making a Battleship movie, supposedly inspired by the board game… but with aliens. I’m not even kidding.

There are a lot of reasons for Hollywood to have adopted this business model, what with dropping movie attendance and technology in flux, and I don’t hold it against them, but there are two interesting insights that can be gleaned from this:

1. Young adult literature has just about the most rabid fan base around

The Hunger Games movie is set up to have a record setting opening night and weekend for a non-sequel, the Twilight movies have had movie goers attending in droves, and Harry Potter is the highest grossing film franchise of all time, above, for example, Star Wars. However you feel about movies based on books, it’s pretty exciting to see so many young adults fired up about their favorite books, characters, and worlds.

2. The world of young adult fiction (and fiction in general) is a creative boom town

I don’t want to over state this because there are an awful lot of derivative books out there and books that don’t push the boundaries (and even The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Harry Potter do their fair share of borrowing), but we aren’t at a place where we’re rewriting classics to try and make a cheap buck. Even better, authors are writing books that resonate with people young and old.

So here’s me resolving to take it as a complement when Hollywood comes along and leeches off the publishing industry’s creativity and fan base, and in the future when people talk excitedly about the Hunger Games movie, with a smile on my face I will (do my best to) say there are a thousand other worlds to be explored that are just as good, and they can be found at their local library.

And hopefully I will sound less pretentious when I say it then it looks when I type it.

My the odds be ever in your favor.


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§ 9 Responses to 2 things the Hunger Games film reminds us about the book industry

  • beckyday6 says:

    I saw The Hunger Games last night, it was awesome 🙂
    Did you hear that they’re going to make the Angry Birds app into a film too? *facepalm*

    • R. H. Culp says:

      I forgot about that! As if further proof was needed that Hollywood either doesn’t have original ideas or at least doesn’t have confidence in them. It’s too bad when you look at how brightly original movies like Inception and Avatar have shone in recent years, but those movies are few and far between.

  • Alyssa says:

    “And hopefully I will sound less pretentious when I say it then it looks when I type it.”

    HA! Perfect.

    After the movie last night, I heard so many people say that they just HAD to go read the book. Others pulled books from their bags and lent them to people on the spot.

    What I love about these books is how equalizing they are. My 25 year old cousin was in a debate with my 14 year old sister, and they both were so passionate about the characters they loved, the themes of redemption and forgiveness, the use of sybolism as manipulation, etc. The English teacher inside is geeking out.

  • “It’s not a big secret that I’m pretty conflicted about books that are made into movies, even (and sometimes especially) if the movies turn out good.”

    My feelings exactly! It’s always hard for me to allow myself to fall in love with a movie that’s based on a book I adore. I have been burned so many times already when the movies have been such let downs.

    The one good thing I do see out of this is that making a movie based on books will always light a spark and get people reading again. Especially when there is such a hype about it like there was with The Hunger Games. All it takes is that one catalyst and boom, you could have an avid reader on your hands! It makes me smile on the inside when I listen to friends and family who don’t normally care to read talk about how great a book was (after they’ve seen the movie, or in preparation for one).

    Great post!

  • Good seeing your posts again!
    I have to wonder why Hollywood is out of ideas. Do they need new people writing the screenplays? Are they squelching any good plots because they don’t think said ideas will be marketable?

    • R. H. Culp says:

      Thanks Stephel. It’s good to be back. I think that in the face of multi-million dollar budgets studios have lost their courage. Somehow, despite the success of great original movies like Avatar and Inception, Hollywood thinks that people are more likely to go see remakes and reboots (or at least they have a better idea of how many people will be interested). What baffles me the most is that with how few of these reboots actually do well in the box office you’d think Hollywood would catch onto the fact that people aren’t that interested in them.

  • Caroline says:

    I was also thinking how so many books are being made into a movie. I sometimes think it’s sad that a great book can’t stay as a book and not into huge money. I saw The Hunger Games and I’m glad it stayed close to the book. It’s exciting to get people talking about books and reading! Good post!

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