The Maze Runner film adaptation and it's fellow competitors
This weekend yet another young adult novel adaptation hits theaters. The Maze Runner, based on a best-selling trilogy, is expected to top the box office with 33 million, according to Exhibitor Relations. That would give it the biggest opening of any movie since August 8th when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brought in 65 million opening weekend. According to movie ticket sale website Fandango, The Maze Runner is the biggest seller accounting for more than 50% of early ticket sales.
But to put that number into perspective, 33 million isn't a fantastic opening weekend, especially for a movie that has franchise potential. Divergent earned 54 million opening weekend. The first Hunger Games movie earned 152 million.
The Maze Runner may go on to make a decent profit for Fox studio. But it is unlikely to turn into the kind of profit spewing franchise that studios are desperate for these days. One-off movies don't pay the bills. Repeat hits like Marvel films, The Hunger Games and Transformers are what studios really need.
In the post-Harry Potter world, young adult seemed like the best place to find those kind of new franchises. There are plenty of series that come to studios with built-in audiences. Young readers devour books like The Maze Runner and Beautiful Creatures. But that doesn't mean they are slam-dunks. Over the past few years we've seen plenty of YA adaptations that have failed to become the next Hunger Games or Harry Potter. Beautiful Creatures grossed a total 60 million at the global box office. The Mortal Instruments earned 90 million and Ender's Game, which cost an estimated 110 million to make, brought in only 125 million.
Divergent is the only recent film to earn it's franchise stripes. The first movie brought in 286 million at the global box office and three more movies are in the pipeline. But even Divergent isn't rising to the level of a giant YA phenomenon. The first Hunger Games movie ended up earning 691 million at the global box office. Looking at future releases of what Box Office Mojo qualifies as young-adult adaptations, the slate is thinning.
While there are Hunger Games and Divergent sequels hitting theaters in the next two years, there aren't many attempts to jump start any new franchises. Plenty of YA books have been optioned, but few are actually in production.
The exception is Goosebumps which hits theaters next summer. Starring Jack Black, the film is a sort of meta-take on the line of kids books with Black playing author R.L. Stine whose demons are on the loose in a small town. But the Sony film is aimed more at kids than at the teen/adult audiences that obsess over most YA adaptations.
Holly wood is always chasing trends and it may be that YA, as a franchise, is just getting played out. Especially when a movie like The Maze Runner hits theaters on the heels of yet another dystopic-future film, The Giver. Despite legions of loving fans, that film has earned just 52 million at the global box office.
As the old saying goes sometimes, the book was way better.