With statistics indicating reading numbers are down, Lauren Ford points out the never-ending cycle of books being made into film.


People seem to have stopped reading books.

In this age of instant communication and abundance of screen time, the amount of people that are kicking back with a good book seems to have dwindled. This is represented by a decline in the readership of major newspapers and magazines, as well as childhood literacy levels; there are also myriad associated issues being faced by writers and publishers the world over.

The drop in circulation of major Australian newspapers was highlighted by The Guardian in claims that the Sydney Morning Herald’s circulation rate had fallen 14.5 percent in the previous two years, and that in the same time period, The Age had dropped a staggering 17.9 percent.

These figures are both shocking and concerning.

However, despite the decline in reading, the amount of moviegoers and the size of the film industry are on the rise.

The true irony of this predicament is that, in conjunction with the changes seen in the literary world, there is an increasing amount of books that are being adapted into films. Every year we witness more and more titles, which encompass all genres, morph into movies. We see the characters that we love evolve before our eyes into colourful and rich images on the silver screen as the film industry facilitates the change from the written to the visual.

There have been numerous titles which have been successful in both of these formats, with franchises proving to be incredibly well received. One of the most popular franchises of all time and one that speaks to a wide variety of people is that of Harry Potter, with the first book released in 1997, and books and movies following in the next decade, making the characters and their creator household names.

However, it is not only the franchises that have proven to be successful as both a book and a film. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind was published in 1936 and a mere three years later was transformed into an epic and timeless movie. This novel was the only work ever produced by Mitchell – but if you are only ever going to have written one book, then this was probably a good way to go. Gone with the Wind, according to boxofficemojo.com, remains the most successful movie at the box office to date, having bought in $1,608,275,200 according to the adjusted figures.

Despite their popularity and permeation into mainstream culture, there are many people that never actually read the Harry Potter books, which to a devout fan seems absolutely unbelievable. Some of these people preferred to go straight to seeing the movie, claiming it is easier to watch a movie and that reading was boring, which also struck book worms everywhere as an absurd notion.

It is this lacklustre attitude to reading that can prove to be detrimental to the written word, and despite popular opinion this is not a problem that is unique to the current generation of young people.

Momentous movies such as Jaws (1975) and M*A*S*H (1970) were phenomenally successful at the time of their release and both have left indelible imprints on popular culture. Jaws alone made over seven million dollars on its opening weekend and remains in the top ten of most successful movies to date in monetary terms. However, before either of these titles became a beloved movie, they were both books, and regardless of the films’ status, there are many people who don’t know this humble fact.

A recent example of a title in the crossover between the literary and visual is The Fault in our Stars by John Green. This was immensely successful young adult-fiction when it was released in 2012, transformed into a movie which, prior to its release, was predicted by US Variety to make an astonishing $50 million on its opening weekend in America.

There is a certain brilliance that you can experience when reading a book for the first time. The introduction to a new world that is full of possibilities can charge your imagination and take you on a previously unimaginable journey. When you engage with characters in which you recognise elements of your own personality, enduring events with them can reveal portions of your own personal world.

Of course, these are all the notions of a book obsessed person who couldn’t fathom someone loving a movie more than the story on which it is based.

In the transition from book to movie there are many things that can change within a particular story and set of characters. In some cases, various changes or casting choices can cause outrage amongst the die-hard fans, and angering people that are passionate about something is never a good course of action (especially if you need nerd support). However there is the flip side to this particular point. If someone sees the movie and discovers it was an adaptation, they may be enticed to read the story in its original form, and more people reading is always an excellent thing.


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