Beloved books before they hit the big screen

Beloved books before they hit the big screen

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is opening in the USA today.

It’s the fourth and last movie (at least in this “booting”) of the series based on

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

It’s going to do very big business…and that’s not something that always happens with movies based on books.

However, it is in an interesting category.

The books were bestsellers before there was a movie.

It’s reasonable to say that they didn’t need the movies, although they certainly have helped the books sales. More than six years after the first book’s release, it is still #114 paid in the USA Kindle store.  The third book (the inspiration for this movie…and the last movie) is #104. That likely demonstrates that the movie is lifting its sales…it has significantly fewer customer reviews than the first book, but has a higher sales rank right now.

All three books, by the way, are available to read at no additional cost for members of Amazon’s subser (subscription service)

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Yes, it’s true that more of the biggest box office blockbusters of the current era are based on comic books, rather than traditional literature, but some of the biggest and most culturally impactive movies have been based on bestselling books.

If we look at the

All Time USA Box Office Champs adjusted for inflation at BoxOfficeMojo

the #1 movie was based on a one of the bestselling books ever…estimated to be more than 30 million copies (and released at a time when the USA population was much lower than it is now).

The excitement about the adaptation was stoked by a highly publicized search for the lead.

People still make references to it…quoting (and misquoting) one of its lines, in particular.

Do you know what it is?

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (at AmazonSmile*)

If you think that going back to 1936 was a long time, we can go back to 1900 for another book release. 🙂

This one may have really created what we call “fandom” for books. There were clubs dedicated to it across the country. People waited in line at bookstores as each new book in the series was released.

The author tried to end the series, but public demand was too high. Despite having tried pioneering crossovers with other series, nothing else approached the long-lasting success of the…Wizard of Oz series. Now, it’s worth noting that the 1939 Judy Garland version was not the first movie version, and one of the most famous elements of that movie came from a stage show.

In fact, when we look at the

Wikipedia list of bestselling books

every one of the 100 million copy or more sellers has had at least one movie version.

The top selling book is A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens…definitely a bestseller, but I’m not sure that I would say it had a fandom like Oz. However, it did have mass popularity, like Gone with the Wind. The difference, in think, is that the movie versions haven’t been huge box office.

Number two, though? Lord of the Rings (“published as a series”…I assume they are totaling the sales of the individual titles.

That one certainly had fandom, with people who spoke in Elvish. 🙂

Returning to the adjusted-for-inflation box office champs, some of the others based on bestsellers are:

  • #7 Jaws
  • #9 The Exorcist
  • #11 101 Dalmations
  • #16 Jurassic Park
  • #24 The Godfather
  • #26 Mary Poppins
  • #29 Thunderball
  • #32 The Jungle Book
  • #36 Love Story
  • #40 Pinocchio

Disney is well-represented…although their tendency to re-release movies repeatedly does impact that.

Oh, and they list book series separately…that seems odd. Well, those include Harry Potter, of course. 😉

So,  sometimes adaptation of books can make great movies…although it isn’t always true, and I’d say the reverse (great books based on movies) is…somewhat less likely. 😉

What do think? Have you ever loved a book…and then loved its movie adaptation? Have you ever been part of book fandom, getting together with other fans of a certain book?  I’m guessing, conversely, you’ve been inspired to read a great book based on seeing its movie? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think (and what you’ve done) by commenting on this post.

Update: thanks to a reader who helped make this post better through a private comment.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


16 Responses to “Beloved books before they hit the big screen”

  1. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I can’t help it (well maybe I can, but what the hey), but I’m going to be the pedant tonight (:grin). When I looked at the inflation adjusted number for GWTW, I said that can’t be right. So I went and looked up the CPI deflator for 1939. $1 in 1939 would take a little more than $17 in 2015 dollars to buy the same amount of stuff (interestingly, I mis-entered 1931 first, and $1 in 1931 would take only $15 of today’s money — there was some serious deflation in the 1930’s :grin).

    Now, I know box office mojo didn’t use a currency deflator — they attempted to adjust based on average movie house ticket prices over the years, and attempted to deal with multiple re-releases of a film over the years (of which GWTW has to be the champ in the re-release sweepstakes). BOMJO’s algorithm is quite reasonable … for movies released after say 1955 when accurate numbers were kept. For older movies, it’s a crap shoot. using a currency deflator GWTW gross would be $6.8 billion — based on all $400 million of GWTW’s international grosses coming in 1939 which of course isn’t the case :grin)

    The numbers you used were based on domestic BO only which tends to hurt more recent releases where overseas BO can be much greater than domestic BO (GWTW is one exception of an older film that did 50% of its BO overseas).

    Wikipedia goes on to say at:
    that not only do you have to look at inflation-adjusted international results, but you also should be looking at grosses not BO — that is all revenue from all sources: theaters, DVDs, toys, TV, etc, etc.

    They have prepared a list of the top 10 based on grosses. GWTW is still #1, but Avatar, Titanic, and Star Wars aren’t that far behind. Of the top 10 only 3 were really based on books. GWTW, Jaws, and Dr Zhivago (these latter 2 were #’s 7&8). Only GWTW and Dr Zhivago were really popular before the movies were made. Jaws, the book, did MUCH better after the movie was released. Titanic was re-released recently, and those grosses are not included in the table. It would appear that if included they would move Titanic into #3 past Star Wars.

    Some further pedantry (:grin): The Sound of Music (#5) was based on the Broadway musical:

    “The film’s screenplay was written by Ernest Lehman, adapted from the stage musical’s book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Based on the memoir The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp”

    I wouldn’t count TSOM as being based on a book — just sayin.

    #10, Snow White, was based on a Grimm’s fairy tale — that doesn’t count either (:grin)

    The top 50 unadjusted list (from the same wikipedia article) is interesting too. GWTW doesn’t make that list (they are somewhere around #213). Most of the top 50 are from the last decade of the 20th, and the first decade of the 21st centuries. I’m not sure what to make of that. Only a sprinkling of the top 50 were based on books….

    Coincidentally, and not at all related to this post, I had been looking at a couple of AFI’s top 100 lists (100 years 100 songs, and 100 movie quotes). Interestingly, Judy Garland & Gene Kelley had the most songs(each with 5), and Casablanca had the most quotes with 6 (which was not at all surprising to me — I expected it to win that one :grin) — the next nearest were GWTW & The Wizard of OZ each with 3. To tie this all back to your post the #1 movie quote of all time (drum roll please) is from GWTW: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” 😀

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Absolutely, a thoughtful comment!

      I deliberately went with someone else’s list…to avoid making those choices in determining any kind of success. 😉 I wouldn’t have had the time right now to do it any way.

      What I would ideally like to see is percentage of the population that sees the movie…if 20% of the USA population at the time sees a movie, that suggest a very different cultural penetration than if 10% see it..

      However, that would be a calculation that would depend on extrapolation, since, even if we knew the number of admissions sold, we wouldn’t know how many were repeats. People have seen the same movie actually in movie theatres 100 times or more, which would skew the numbers. I’ve seen at least one movie in the theatres…well, I’d say tens of times.

      I could have chosen to go with international box office, but deliberately didn’t do that. While I have readers all over the world and don’t at all discount the increasing value of the non-USA box office, I was also dealing with English language books, for the most part, although the Wikipedia list says it is for books in “any language”.

      Including merchandising as part of the gross of a movie seems to be conflation to me. Some types of movies will clearly have an advantage there…you can do a lot more active toys from Star Wars than you can from Gone with the Wind, for example. It’s also hard to draw firm lines around the merchandising: I suspect Steamboat Willie, the first Mickey Mouse cartoon would have a shot at being the largest grosser under that definition, if you included any thing sold or paid for (like theme park admissions) with Mickey Mouse on/in it!

      Finally, grossing ignores the cost of production/marketing, which can be large. I maintain (usually weekly) two list for current box office. One has to do with domestic gross (which I shorten to “dogro”), as reported by IMDb. The second has to do with profitability, based on my taking the dogro and removing the reported production budget (which ignores the marketing budget…I just don’t have good figures for that).

      In addition, I give “Awards” based on their percentage of return (dogro divided by production budget).

      All different angles. 🙂

      I could look at international gross…I see those figures. That just seem so complex to me, partially because there is a lot of politics involved. A movie that, for political reasons, won’t get shown in, say, India and China will come out a lot lower…and that won’t be an accurate reflection of it’s cultural impact in the USA. Also, comedies don’t translate as well as action movies…so a very impactful comedy in the USA might look like a blip worldwide.

      It’s all fascinating to me, though, and I appreciated your comment! I guess all of these parameters don’t “…amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” 😉

      • eboyhan Says:

        TheIcemanCan’tRemember (below) — for some reason logging in to WordPress on Windows 10 gives me that user name — go figure 😀

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, TheIcemanCan’tRemember! 😉

        Odd! That’s what I see for you as well…interestingly, I even see the same e-mail and other information on both of your comments.

  2. Phink Says:

    Just my opinion of course but I think the Harry Potter movies might be the worse movies of all-time if you compare the movies to the books. In other words if I were to rate all 7 books from 1-10 (which I do) and then rate the movies 1-10 (Which I don’t do) I think the totals for the entire franchise would show a huge gap. I thought the first two movies were really good but the rest left a lot to be desired. All the books, except one were phenomenal. Three of them rank as my #1 – #3 favorite books of all-time. All but one rank in my top 30.

    Both the book and movie of “Gone with the Wind” were fantastic. #16 (movie list) Jurassic Park ranks as my 8th favorite book of all time. In the beginning it had a lot of techo mumbo jumbo that I found uninteresting and boring but it wound up getting really good.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      Well, we may have some disagreements on how we would rank some things. 🙂 That’s fine, though…I think it’s a good thing.

  3. Lady Galaxy Says:

    Interesting that several of those movies were Disney movies. I never saw any of the Disney movies you mentioned. I learned when I was very young just how badly Disney mangles books! I loved the movie “Toby Tyer,” so I got the book from the library to read since those were the days when once the movie left the theaters, you wouldn’t see it again unless it was rereleased, and most movies didn’t get that second life. The movie and the book had very little in common other than the circus and the name of the character. In that case, I liked the movie better. In fact I hated the book because my expectations had not been met. I wonder if I would have liked the book better if I had read it first?

    Still, the worst mangling of a book for me was the movie of “The Moon Spinners.” The book by Mary Stewart was one of my favorite books, and Hayley Mill was one of my favorite movie stars, so I had great expectations for the movie. I hated the movie! Most of my favorite scenes never even made it into the movie, and the ones that did were so changed that they were hardly recognizable. I’m still waiting for the Kindle version of the book.

    One of the closest to the book version movies was “The Silence of the Lambs.” I liked both equally well.

    I read “Jaws”, “Jurassic Park” and “The Exorcist” before seeing the movies. I think all three might have been choices in either Book of The Month Club or Literary Guild. I liked all the movies, but as usually happens, I preferred the books because books have more details and let you form your own mental pictures. I’m not sure why I saw “Love Story”, because I didn’t really like the book. This was a case where I liked the movie better.

    I agree with Phink that the Harry Potter movies were major disappointments. Because of the length of the books vs the length of the movies, so many important details were left out. The actors aged and grew faster than the time line of the book, which was also a problem.

    “Gone With the Wind” was my mother’s all time favorite book and movie to the point that she named me after one of the characters. She was one of those people who saw the movie at a theater multiple times, so many times she could never remember how many times. I read the book when I was in middle school. I saw the movie once in a theater when it was re-released when I was in HS. I was prepared for the major differences because my mom had given me a blow by blow detailed account of them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it on video. I’ve owned both the VCR and DVD versions, but I rarely watch it now. However, if I happen to be channel surfing and run into it, I’ll stop and watch. I do not know why!

    I downloaded the sample of “The Help,” but couldn’t get into it so I never purchased the book. When I saw the movie, I really liked it. The same thing happened with “Gone Girl.” I tried reading “Case Histories” by Kate Atkinson, but because of the way the book jumped around, I got totally lost and gave up. Then I saw the TV series based on the book, or I should say books since its part of a series, and the story finally made sense to me.

    As to the second question about being part of a group of “book fandom,” back in the days where some of us got free AOL for volunteering to help behind the scenes, I was the message board manager for the Harry Potter boards on AOL. It was like being the never before seen, and never to be seen again crew member wearing a red shirt on an Enterprise landing party.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thank for writing, Lady!

      Fascinating comment!

      I’ve seen Gone with the Wind, but not read it. That’s not to say I won’t some day. I mentioned that my Significant Other knew someone who just alternated reading Helter Skelter and Gone with the Wind. I guess that make up for me. 😉 I have seen the movie…once.

      I’ve seen some movies many times…Rocky Horror, the 1931 Dracula, the 1939 Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, Buckaroo Banzai, King Kong…just to name a few. 🙂

      The Circus of Dr. Lao and 7 Faces of Dr. Lao form an interesting pair for me…very, very different, but I like them both. I thought Soylent Green was better than Make Room! Make Room!…and The Planet of the Apes was considerably better than the book (even though I didn’t read the latter in the original French, I thought Rod Serling did much more with the script than the book had done).

      • TheIcemanCan'tRemember Says:

        There are only two movies that I ever saw more than once in a theater: West Side Story I must have seen it 5 or 6 times — I kept hoping the ending would be different (and of course I was in love with Natalie Wood — I’ve seen every movie she made :grin; and Star Wars — I kept taking dates in NYC (who had no SciFI background) to see it. I’ve of course seen Casablanca innumerable times — all on TV.

        I read all the HP books, and saw all the movies (book first; movie after) — I was never much concerned with how each tracked with the other — I enjoyed both about equally well.

        Tonight, I just went to see “The Martian”, a book I read a couple of months ago to which I gave one of my rare 5-star ratings. The movie tracked to book fairly well, although they cut a couple of events, and they compressed the timescale quite a bit to fit in the usual movie time window. The one thing that jarred for me was the depiction of the Martian landscape — it’s flatter and mostly has gentle hills none of the jagged up thrusts seen in the film — it looked more like LA without the freeways, grass, and palm trees — a situation that may ultimately actually eventuate (for LA not Mars 😀 ).

        The movie was, however, very enjoyable with a killer soundtrack (all disco all the time — my favorite :grin).

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Edward!

        I actually thought The Martian as a movie was better. I liked the book, but I wouldn’t say it was as great a book as the movie was a great movie.

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        The only movie I saw more than once at a theater was the Franco Zefferelli version of Romeo and Juliet. I saw that twice at a theater. I saw it several times on TV and bought the VHS tape as soon as it became available. I think what I loved most about that movie was the musical score and the costumes. And then, I was sentenced to teach 9th grade English for 10 years which included teaching “Romeo and Juliet” the play. At the end of the unit, I showed the movie. There was no way to combine all 4 sections of 9th grade English into one time block to show the whole thing and get it over with, so I got to watch it 4 times per day. Once every year. For 10 years! That was actually one of my favorite units of the whole curriculum, but I really don’t ever need to see the movie again. I can probably still recite it word for word with the actors!

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        I’m a bit surprised that you were showing that to 9th graders in school! When it first came out, there were field trips to go see it by high school students, but I recall there being permission slips because of the nudity…

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        The videos sold to schools are different from the ones sold to the public. First of all, they’re more expensive because they include the licensing fee to show to a larger audience. They are also slightly edited. If you ever saw the edited for television version, that’s pretty much the same as the education version. That brief flash of Juliet’s bosom was edited out.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        Oh, that makes sense! I should have realized…I’m glad it was a licensed use. 🙂 Our kid’s school got a cease and desist letter from Disney when they were showing videos that kids brought to class on rainy days. Only from Disney, from what we heard…and yes, that means someone (a parent, school staff) reported the use.

        When I explore the idea of permanent copyright, I also propose that as a trade off: much greater Fair Use provisions, which would have included you showing it to your classes (for educational purposes) without paying that fee.

    • Phink Says:

      Everybody’s taste is different but I just wanted to touch on ‘The Help’. I listened to the audio book and loved it. My final rating in 2013 was 9.15 out of 10 however back then I rated the narrator if it was an audio book and that was averaged with my other categories. I have stopped doing that because I came to realize a persons voice perhaps should not reflect the story in the book when your goal is to rate how well you enjoyed the story. A great voice might rank a 10 but the overall book a 1 and that would skew the ratings making it look better than I thought the story actually was. Yes, the narrator can make it a more pleasant experience for me or worse experience but I now rate books solely on what is written. Speaking of which Jim Dale’s take on Harry Potter was almost jaw dropping it was so good.

      Speaking of which yesterday Audible announced they finally have Harry Potter WOW! That is huge for audio book fans.

      I gave it Interesting 8.88 — Captivating 8.88 — Humerus 9 — Characters 9.4. Yeah, I probably could not decide between 8.8 and 8.9 I’m guessing and I like all numbers to be the same in those situations LOL. Like I said though everybody’s taste is different and like Bufo said that’s a good thing.

      Gone with the Wind was so freaking good. Both the book and the movie. It might would rank, in my opinion, as the best book movie combo of all time.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      Oh, yes, the Disney versions have often had little to do with the originals. 🙂 I had some difficulty with their animated Hercules coming from a happy family life!

      I liked both The Help book and movie…different, but I liked them both.

      As to the AOL thing..that’s interesting! There were a few of us who did, I think, some great work on the Sci Fi Channel’s website (now Syfy)…which, unfortunately, disappeared later. I preserved a bit of it, but I thought that was too bad.

      Amazon also had a “list” features for a short time…they converted our lists (which were a public thing…like the lists on IMDb, also owned by Amazon), into Amazon Wish Lists. That would have been okay, I suppose, but they couldn’t handle as many characters, so again, writing was lost.

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