Are Young Adult Film Adaptations in Decline?

Young adult film adaptations are still a big business, but Hollywood isn’t raking in the cash that it once did from YA franchises. Back in the 2000s and early 2010s, profits from young adult films reached dizzying heights thanks to the success of franchises like Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games. But recent returns have been significantly leaner, USA Today points out.

For a while, Hollywood was able to ride the momentum of the three biggest young adult franchises of the 2000s. The film version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone debuted in 2001, and the franchise turned out a film every year or two until 2011. By then, Twilight was going strong: the first film in that series came out in 2008. Twilight wrapped things up in 2012, but the first Hunger Games film came out that same year.

The last Hunger Games movie came out this year, and no clear successor has emerged. The film adaptation of The 5th Wave came out in January, but it crashed and burned, earning just $34 million. Back in 2013, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (based on Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones) performed even more weakly. The book series has taken off on TV instead, in the form of the show Shadowhunters. Even the Hunger Games franchise itself saw its commercial and critical fortunes tail off at the end, it was in part because of the decision to split the plot of the final book across two movies (a trend which was started by the Harry Potter films but has not gone as well for other franchises).

Of the current active young adult movie franchises, the Divergent series may be the strongest contender for the title of “next big thing.” But Divergent’s high-water mark (2014’s Divergent, which took in $151 million) didn’t quite match the first Hunger Games film ($152.5 million), and 2015’s sequel Insurgent dropped off to $130.2 million. That series’ two-part finale begins with Allegiant, which just hit theaters on March 18.

It will be very interesting to see how this trend develops in the coming years. Harry Potter, the franchise that started it all, is coming back with three spin-off films. Can Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them help invigorate the young adult movie market? Will Allegiant establish the Divergent series as a true peer to Harry Potter and The Hunger Games? We’ll have to wait and see.


Main image: Lionsgate