There was a time in the film industry when making two movies based on one book was unheard of. Yet studios have begun to capitalize on what's proved to be a practical trend.
After "Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows" was divided into two parts-grossing more than $1 billion combined, other films based on books were split, as well. "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn," based on the fourth book in the tween franchise, was made into two separate parts. The first, released in November of 2011, earned an astounding $705 million, while "Breaking Dawn: Part 2" is expected to shatter box-office records.
'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay' is the final book in the popular trilogy.
The highly anticipated "Lord of the Rings" prequel, "The Hobbit," is another film-to-screen adaptation set to be released in two installments, "An Unexpected Journey" and "There and Back Again." The big-budget fantasy adventures will premiere in December of 2012 and 2013, respectively.
Now comes news that the final "Hunger Games" film, "Mockingjay," will also be broken down into two movies. Based on the third book in the bestselling trilogy by Suzanne Collins, the films are slated for release in November of 2014 and 2015. That's quite a leap considering the second film, "Catching Fire," has yet to start shooting. But the fact that "Mockingjay" is nearly 400 pages may warrant extra screen time.
It's a challenge to cram lengthy prose into a screenplay and still adequately convey the story's themes and content. For this reason, some of the most successful screen adaptations have been based on short stories. The classic "Breakfast at Tiffany's,"Christopher Nolan's haunting memory loss drama "Memento," and Oscar-winning "Brokeback Mountain" are all based on short fiction.
"Movies avoid the problem of necessary omission by splitting their final films into two parts," writes Andrew Meola of Walk In Radio. "Filmmakers can weave so many more references, scenes and moments into the movie when they have to adapt only 200 pages instead of 400. So maybe when 'Mockingjay: Part 1' comes out, we'll see a more a direct and rich interpretation of the source material than if they tried to cram such an action-heavy book into one film."
Though creative choices play a role in these divisions, the financial benefits cannot be ignored. When books generate hype, a built-in film audience is typically a given. Diehard fans of popular fiction are likely to pay twice in order to see their beloved books on the big screen.
Meola cites growing ticket prices as a way for studios to generate double the profit by releasing two films.
"It's becoming commonplace for book-to-movie adaptations to split their final acts into two parts. The reason, as with everything else in our world, is money. Why make one movie and charge $15 per ticket when you can make two movies and double your profit?"
Hypable, a site that features the opinions of entertainment fans, posted the reaction of one "Hunger Games" lover who feels that making two films is exploitative.
"There is absolutely no reason to split any of 'The Hunger Games' books other than for pure profit," writes the unimpressed fan. "I fear if we don't put a stop to this practice soon, the next adaptation of 'Romeo and Juliet' will be split into two films, because who could possibly fit a five-act play into one little movie?"
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