By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com March 23, 2012 at 11:56AM
Today sees the release of "The Hunger Games," the much anticipated adaptation of the popular young adult novel series about a future in which children are forced to compete in a fight to the death for the entertainment of the upper class, and to help their district fight off starvation. The books have been bestsellers, and Lionsgate have pegged the film to be their own answer to another hugely popular teen-skewing franchise, the vampire romance "Twilight." And it looks as if the gamble has paid off, with most prognosticators pegging the film to open well over $100 million in the U.S. this weekend.
But all things come to an end, and while "The Hunger Games" is only just hitting theaters, sequel "Catching Fire" is already set for release in November 2013, with final "Mockingjay" presumably following another eighteen months or so after that. And when you figure in that "Harry Potter" wrapped up its multi-billion dollar run last year, and that "Twilight" will end on its fifth installment this November, it becomes very clear why the studios are desperate to find the next property that could plug the young adult gap. The next year will see several attempts, from hopeful franchise "Snow White And The Huntsman" to zombie romance "Warm Bodies," and "The Host," Andrew Niccol's adaptation of "Twilight" author Stephenie Meyer's book for adults (see the teaser trailer here).
With that in mind, we've dug around to find 15 young adult fiction books or series that studios hope might become the next major box office phenomenon. Which have a real chance at becoming massive franchises, and which are already faltering in development hell? Most if not all have been proven successes on the bookshelves, but as everything from "Eragon" to "I Am Number Four" have proven, that won't necessarily translate to multiplex dollars. So what are the major hopefuls over the next few years?
The Pitch: Two teens in the Deep South are drawn together by a strange connection and supernatural secrets.
The Pros: Like "Hunger Games" helmer Gary Ross, Richard LaGravanese comes as a man with significant acclaim behind him: he's the Oscar-nominated writer of "The Fisher King" and has "The Ref," "The Horse Whisperer" and "The Bridges Of Madison County," among others, to his name. He's at the helm of this adaptation, and he's got a pretty mean cast on board: Oscar-nominee Viola Davis, Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons, Margo Martindale, Emmy Rossum and hugely talented rising stars Jack O'Connell and Alice Englert as the leads. Could this be the thinking teen's franchise of choice?
The Cons: For one, the logline is hilariously vague, and backers Alcon Entertainment had better find a solid way to sell this to people if they want anyone to turn up. For another, the books are moderately popular, but certainly not the kind of blockbusters as some of these, so it doesn't have the same built-in audience. LaGravanese's previous directorial work ("P.S. I Love You" being the most recent) isn't exactly something to give us a ton of confidence, either.
Status: Filming gets underway very shortly, and release is set for February 1, 2013.
"Blood Red Road"
The Pitch: In a post-apocalyptic wasteland, 18-year-old Saba goes searching for her brother, who's been kidnapped by the local warlord, who intends to sacrifice him.
The Pros: Every bookseller we talked to in the run up to writing this piece said that the hottest thing in the young adult fiction world right now, post "Hunger Games," are stories set in a futuristic dystopia, and we're sure the success of the film will make that follow on for the movies. As such, it was smart of Scott Free to snap up the rights to Moira Young's book last year, and even smarter to hire rising writer Jack Thorne to write the script. It seems to be the stuff of high adventure, has a strong female lead, and while it's unlikely that Ridley Scott will find time to make the thing, as was once mooted, it seems to be a measure of the material.
The Cons: That's what we're assuming, anyway, as on paper there doesn't seem to be much to distinguish it from other post-apocalptic tales. It seems to be quite tough material too, without the romance aspect that helps to widen the demographic reach, and without a high concept for the easy sell. It's certainly one of the more intriguing projects on this list, but not the one we'd bank on being massive.
Status: In development