Young adults have always been Hollywood’s key demographic to target. Young adults have always been the highest moviegoers in terms of numbers. Researchers working for big movie studios are constantly getting replaced with younger models, because studios always want researchers who are in tune with what teenagers want. Cinema is a billion dollar industry and young adult novels-turned-to-movies are taking over.
This concept of focusing on young adult novels to adapt into movies is relatively new. It started back in 2001 with the release of both Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Both franchises have two things in common: their main demographics were young adults upon publishing, and they were both colossal box office successes worldwide. Sorcerer’s Stone grossed $970 million worldwide, and Fellowship grossed $870 million worldwide. This sent warning bells to every executive in Hollywood that young adult novels with a fantasy element were the newest craze. And boy, did they capitalise on it!
Since then, there were many wannabe Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter films released in later years. Every young adult novel-based movie either wanted to be like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. Did they want to be about giant epics with fantasy wars, or did they want to be about teenagers in a world of magic? Movies aiming for the epic fantasy were: Eragon, The Golden Compass and The Chronicle of Narnia. Movies trying to be teenagers in a world of magic were: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Spiderwick Chronicles, and Bridge to Terabithia. All these imitators ranged from box-office bombs to mildly successful.
The problem was Hollywood wanted to give audiences something they already had, and make them pay extra for it. Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter were made with care by talented people, all the others were processed as quickly as humanly possible to cash-in on the new craze. This is why the newest take-over in cinemas around the world were the young adult novels that delivered something different to the table.
Enter Twilight and The Hunger Games. There was a sudden shift in focus for Hollywood as all of a sudden young girls were the key demographic. Twilight was a fantasy romance novel for teenage girls, and The Hunger Games was a science fiction novel also for teenage girls. The first Twilight grossed $390 million worldwide and The Hunger Games grossed $690 million worldwide. The highest grossing movie of 2013 was The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
And of course, with all groundbreakers there will be a thousand imitators. Vampire Academy, The Host, Beautiful Creatures, Beastly, and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones all wanted to be Twilight. There are many upcoming movies such as The Maze Runner and The Giver trying to be the next Hunger Games.
Teenagers find it easier to relate themselves to characters of their own age, which is why all the protagonists from all these novels are teenagers. These novels often involve a coming-of-age story were a young boy or girl learns to discover who they are while battling the forces of evil. The worlds in which these novels take place are constructed very much in the way teenagers view the world, not necessarily how the world really is. Adults are often the enemy, enforcing their tyrannical rules on teenagers because they do not understand young people, or they are just never around when needed. The protagonist’s love interest is incredibly attractive, personality not necessary. A young man is able to change the world because of their new and “radical” philosophies.
With this sudden boom in demand Hollywood is very scared of missing out on the next “big-hit”. Which is why novels are green-lighted for adaptations as quickly as machine gun bullets. Do not worry about quality, statistically something will stick eventually. Cinema has always worked that way, one genre takes over and everyone wants a piece, now it is Young Adult novels. Perhaps the reason Young Adult novels are so popular is because what teenagers like, adults can enjoy too, but maybe not vice-versa. There is also a peer-pressure to be up-to-date with the latest fantasy book. If everyone at school is reading a particular series, nobody wants to be the one missing out.
Opinion By Ignacio Gatti