How to make a Hollywood hit? Go by the book

Want to make a fortune in Hollywood? Hit the books first

Published: Jun 13, 2015 06:47:22 AM IST
Updated: Jun 9, 2015 06:05:52 PM IST

It might be time to update the old adage: These days a picture is worth a thousand words—and, occasionally, a billion dollars. Unadjusted for inflation, five movies directly adapted from books have cracked $1 billion in global ticket sales. Add comic books and the list grows to ten. (Most recently: Avengers: Age of Ultron, whose heroes have racked up more than $1.2 billion since early May.)

Since The Exorcist in 1973 ($441 million), book adaptations have tallied $33.6 billion in constant-dollar ticket sales and that’s just among the 200 top-grossing movies. The hottest genre by far: Young Adult (YA) fiction. Seventeen of the 25 highest-grossing book-movies started as acne-and-angst YA novels.

Make that acne, angst and alchemy: A certain young wizard’s 2001 celluloid debut, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, grossed $975 million and spawned a franchise that cast a $7.7 billion spell at the box office. (The other YA staples: The Hunger Games, Twilight and CS Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.)

And while literary purists might lament the dominance of all that kiddie fiction, one big box office performer has a loftier pedigree: Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, published in 1936, brought in $1.6 billion in 2015 dollars (domestic only!) when it hit screens three years later in 1939—making Rhett and Scarlett the financial peers of Harry, Bilbo and Alice in Wonderland.


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(This story appears in the 26 June, 2015 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from To visit our Archives, click here.)

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