By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES Nov 15 As vampires Bella and Edward
take their last bites on the big screen, Hollywood studios are
on the hunt for the next "Twilight," a movie that plays on
teenage angst and, more importantly, lights up the movie box
The first four "Twilight" movies earned $2.5 billion at
theaters worldwide, propelled by passionate fans of a book
series about a vampire-and-werewolf teen love triangle. Box
office watchers project "Breaking Dawn - Part 2" will haul in
$150 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters this weekend, one of
the year's biggest film debuts.
Eager to replicate that performance, studios executives have
been trolling through young adult novels with the dream of
uncovering the next big blockbuster franchise, paying as much as
$1 million to secure the film rights to the hottest books.
At least four films based on books for teenagers will reach
theaters next year, with young love forced to overcome alien
parasites, evil zombies and other supernatural bad guys.
Executives hope they can uncover a story that excites
tech-savvy teens, who supercharged the buzz mill for "The Hunger
Games" and other hits by spreading the word to friends through
social media posts.
"It's a very enthusiastic and deep passion that young people
feel for a book they love," said Nina Jacobson, producer of "The
Hunger Games," which spawned a blockbuster film franchise with
$687 million in worldwide ticket sales this spring.
"When they love something, they share it," Jacobson said.
The four-year "Twilight" movie saga lifted tiny studio
Summit Entertainment into Hollywood's big leagues and paved the
way for its $412 million acquisition in January by Lions Gate
Entertainment, the studio behind "The Hunger Games."
The coming young adult films incorporate paranormal themes
like those in the "Twilight" movies or dark dystopian futures
and battles for survival reminiscent of "The Hunger Games," and
do it through the drama of young love.
Summit is aiming to get "Twilight" fans buzzing about next
February's zombie romance "Warm Bodies" with a trailer before
"Breaking Dawn - Part 2." "Warm Bodies" star Teresa Palmer
chatted about the movie - a love story between a zombie and
human - while she strolled the red carpet at a "Breaking Dawn"
A couple of weeks after "Warm Bodies," Warner Brothers will
trot out fantasy movie "Beautiful Creatures," about a teen girl
with magical powers and a boy who is drawn to her, with a debut
on Valentine's Day.
The movie "shares as much in common with 'Twilight' as it
does with 'Harry Potter,'" said Andrew Kosove, co-president of
production studio Alcon Entertainment, referring to the
boy-wizard series that grossed $7.7 billion in worldwide ticket
sales and woke up Hollywood to the power of adaptations of
children's and young adult books.
In March, Open Road Films releases "The Host," a science
fiction tale about alien parasites from "Twilight" author
Stephenie Meyer. Sony Corp's "The Mortal Instruments:
City of Bones," about a teen girl who tries to protect the world
from demons, comes out in August. Summit's drama "Ender's Game,"
the story of a boy who leads the charge against an alien
invasion, is scheduled for November 2013.
They will battle the latest installments of existing young
adult franchises such as the "Hunger Games" sequel "Catching
Fire" that comes out November 2013. Warner Brothers will release
"Hobbit" movies in December 2012 and December 2013.
The fever for young adult movies is so hot among Hollywood
executives that studios snap up the rights to some books before
they hit store shelves to keep them out of the hands of their
competitors. Screen Gems, a unit of Sony, announced Oct. 9 it
had bought rights to "Black City" a month before the book went
The studio moved quickly based on a "high level of
anticipation for the property in the online community and other
young adult circles," it said in a statement.
Lions Gate's Summit studio scooped up the rights before
publication for "Divergent," a novel set in a futuristic Chicago
where people are divided into factions based on personality
traits. The studio is producing a movie for 2014 that features
young Hollywood star Shailene Woodley, who played George
Clooney's troubled daughter in the movie "The Descendants" last
The "Divergent" book series has sold more than 2 million
copies, pacing ahead of both "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games"
at the same point in their histories, Lions Gate CEO Jon
Feltheimer told industry analysts on a Nov. 9 conference call.
"We are putting out to our fans right now we think that this
is the next big franchise," Feltheimer said.
The web is producing hot properties, too. Media Rights
Capital plans to develop three movies based on writer Amanda
Hocking's "Trylle Trilogy" about a young girl with special
Hocking gained fame by selling more than 1 million copies of
self-published books on the Internet, an unusual feat that
demonstrated fans' rabid support for the stories, said Media
Rights Capital Co-CEO Modi Wiczyk.
"There is clearly a pre-existing audience," Wiczyk said. "It
makes life easier."
Still, there is no guarantee book lovers will flock to a
movie version of their favorite read, said Keith Simanton,
managing editor of movie website IMDB.com. Film adaptations of
"The Seeker" and "The Spiderwick Chronicles" failed to give
birth to the kind of big movie franchises that have become the
lifeblood of Hollywood's movie studios, he said.
"It is going to continue to be a trend, until one of them
fails in a big way," Simanton said.