Not only is “Fifty Shades Freed” expected to spank the competition at this weekend’s box office, it will tie up the loose ends on an era of moviemaking.
After the Harry Potter tomes became literary and film phenomena, money-hungry studios saw pretty much any series of books as a billion-dollar movie franchise. But for every “Twilight,” there was a “Beautiful Creatures.” And a “The Giver.” An “I Am Number Four.” An “Ender’s Game.” And even a “The 5th Wave.”
The “Divergent” movies started out relatively strong, but “The Divergent Series: Allegiant,” which only covered the first half of the final book, was such a flop, there still isn’t a concrete plan for how to resolve them.
With last month’s release of “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” — in which characters presumably ran in a maze and cured death (Full disclosure: I’ve never seen any of them) — “Fifty Shades Freed” closes the book on movie adaptations based on literary franchises.
Not that Hollywood is giving up.
On March 2, “The Hunger Games” team of Jennifer Lawrence and director Francis Lawrence will reunite for “Red Sparrow,” about a ballerina who becomes a Russian spy, that’s based on the first novel of author Jason Matthews’ trilogy. The following week, Disney will release “A Wrinkle in Time,” an adaptation of the first entry in Madeleine L’Engle’s “Time” quintet. And on Nov. 9, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” series will get another shot, with a new cast, in “The Girl in the Spider’s Web.”
Until then, here’s a look back at some of the biggest book franchise-to-movie franchise success stories, with earnings according to Box Office Mojo. And, for those of you asking, “What about ‘The Lord of the Rings’?,” technically, that’s one book divided into three volumes.
Harry Potter (2001-2011)
Number of books: 7
Number of movies: 8
Domestic box office: $2.39 billion
These movies set the template for young adult franchises by splitting the final book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” into two films. Their success is even more remarkable when you consider Warner Bros. was able to wring eight movies out of the young stars — Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were a combined 36 years old when “The Sorcerer’s Stone” was released — in less than a decade with one writer (Steve Kloves, “The Fabulous Baker Boys”) scripting each of the pictures except “Order of the Phoenix.”
Number of books: 4
Number of movies: 5
Domestic box office: $1.36 billion
You can thank the “Twilight” movies and the Team Edward vs. Team Jacob marketing for injecting a love triangle into almost every young adult franchise. You also can thank it for the “Fifty Shades” sensation, as author E.L. James’ novels began as “Twilight” fan fiction.
“The Hunger Games” (2012-15)
Number of books: 3
Number of movies: 4
Domestic box office: $1.45 billion
The odds were certainly in its favor as Jennifer Lawrence was cast between her Oscar-nominated turn in “Winter’s Bone” and her Oscar-winning role in “Silver Linings Playbook.” In a step up from the “Twilight” series, she was surrounded by a whole District’s worth of acclaimed actors, including Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Jeffrey Wright and “Moonlight” Oscar winner Mahershala Ali.
James Bond (1962-)
Number of books: 14 (including two collections of short stories)
Number of movies: 24 (officially)
Domestic box office: $2.06 billion
This one’s a little murky. Ian Fleming wrote the novels or short stories that served as the basis — or at least the titles — for the first 16 movies, as well as the 23rd, “Quantum of Solace.” Other movies included aspects of Fleming’s stories. But quantifying their success becomes tricky when you consider that “Casino Royale” was made twice, the first time as a spoof in 1967, and 1965’s “Thunderball” was remade in 1983 as “Never Say Never Again.”
Jason Bourne (2002-2016)
Number of books: 3
Number of movies: 4
Domestic box office: $687.8 million
Bear with me. Robert Ludlum wrote three Jason Bourne novels, “The Bourne Identity,” “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum,” which were adapted into movies starring Matt Damon. Since Ludlum’s death in 2001, Eric Van Lustbader has written 11 Jason Bourne novels, including “The Bourne Legacy,“ which was adapted into a movie that didn’t star Matt Damon and only tangentially featured Jason Bourne. “Jason Bourne,” which starred Matt Damon and most certainly featured Jason Bourne, wasn’t adapted from anything.