LOS ANGELES Angsty teenage love may be as old as Shakespeare, but with the star-crossed lover motif getting a makeover (often introducing the supernatural) in the last few years, Hollywood has been stalking the young adult book market with the ferocity of a jilted lover.
One result is a pileup at the box office this season of female-driven stories with strong-willed protagonists battling zombies, witches and aliens while wrestling with their own overwrought emotions.
In the next three months “Warm Bodies,” “The Host” and “Beautiful Creatures” will be targeted at this voracious crowd. With so many fighting for attention, will there be enough audience adoration to go around?
“I think we hit a lot of the touch points (teenage girls) want: We have the romantic elements, we have a strong female character that I think is very appealing, and we are tapping into the teenage worldview, when life is so vivid,” said Jonathan Levine, screenwriter and director of the zombie romance “Warm Bodies,” opening Feb. 1.
Each of the three male writer-directors of these projects are coming to the genre for the first time, attracted to the high-stakes material for the varied themes each one offers on coming of age, love and internal struggle – the emotions that seem to overwhelm the teenage condition. Adding in the supernatural aspect allowed each of the filmmakers a greater scope to tell his tale.
While the new films have been made for a fraction of the price of their predecessors, key to their success will be luring in the “Twilight” – “Hunger Games” audience. Add the fact that the “Twilight” franchise ended in November and the next “Hunger Games” installment will hit theaters at Thanksgiving, the studios are hoping there’s an audience for this romantic fare.
Yet market researcher Vincent DeBruzzese warns that simply because a book has a following with a specific audience does not mean it will translate to box office gold.
“Books are usually a one zero thing,” said DeBruzzese, president of Ipsos MediaCT in Los Angeles. “Either they are ‘Twilight,’ ‘Hunger Games,’ ‘Harry Potter’ or they are popular but they aren’t driving the box office. Only ‘The Host,’ because it was Stephenie Meyer’s book after ‘Twilight’ and it got some traction right away, will have an impact. The others are big in their own right, but they won’t have an impact at the box office.”
All three of the movies have sequels completed or in the works. Marion is writing his follow-up to “Warm Bodies,” which just hit the New York Times bestseller list, while Meyer has plans for two more installments in “The Host” trilogy. “Beautiful Creatures’” authors have already completed their series – a total of four books in all.
LaGravenese wanted to maintain objectivity when adapting “Beautiful Creatures” for the screen:
“I want it to stand on its own as a good movie. I’m really tired of movies that end with a ton of questions that you have to come back and buy another ticket for.”