Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 04-16-12

Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling in “The Lucky One”

Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling in “The Lucky One”

“Think Like a Man’s” Meagan Good

“Think Like a Man’s” Meagan Good

“Chimpanzee’s” In theaters April 20th

“Chimpanzee” In theaters April 20th

Blockbuster books: Hollywood’s been bringing books to the screen since the silent days and hits like D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation,” adapted from Thomas F. Dixon, Jr.’s novel “The Clansman.”

But today the connection between bestsellers and blockbusters is stronger than it’s ever been. With mega-hit franchises like “The Hunger Games,” “The Twilight Saga” and “Harry Potter” all having springboarded from best-selling books, Hollywood’s present appetite for literary material is nothing short of voracious.

To begin with, successful books create great pre-awareness for movies because readers have already found and enjoyed the literary material. Moreover, having paperback editions of the same books on racks in places like airports, supermarkets and drugstores provides significant marketing value by increasing awareness of a film prior to its opening.

Even people who haven’t read the books are aware of them through retail displays and publicity in the media. That, in turn, can play a part in getting people to consider seeing a film.

Moviegoers who are readers also recognize that films based on novels typically have well developed stories and are about people who aren’t just cardboard characters. People understand that this makes for better movie storylines.

This year has already seen Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games” gross about $337 million in domestic theatres. It’s based on the first of a three book series by Suzanne Collins published from 2008-10. When “Hunger” opened Mar. 23, Collins’ book had been on USA Today’s bestseller list for 135 consecutive weeks and 26 million books from her trilogy were in print.

Another recent book-driven boxoffice success story is Universal’s “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” based on a 1971 novel by the late Theodor Seuss Geisel. The 3D animated movie has grossed nearly $205 million in domestic theatres since opening Mar. 2.

Next weekend will see the arrival of two films based on popular books that hope to benefit from their literary roots — Warner Bros.’ romantic drama “The Lucky One,” based on Nicholas Sparks’ 2008 novel of the same name; and Screen Gems’ comedy “Think Like a Man,” based on comedian and TV host Steve Harvey's 2009 relationship advice book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.”

“Lucky,” directed by Scott Hicks (“Shine”) and starring Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling, is Sparks’ seventh novel to be filmed. The previous six have grossed about $360 million in domestic theatres. Sparks’ first novel, “The Notebook,” was published in October 1996 and grossed $81 million domestically when its movie adaptation opened in June 2004 via New Line Cinema. Directed by Nick Cassavetes, the romantic drama starred Gena Rowlands, James Garner and Rachel McAdams.

“Notebook” is the most successful adaptation to date of a Sparks novel. The others with their domestic theatrical grosses and opening dates are: “Dear John” (Screen Gems, $80 million, Feb. 5, 2010); “The Last Song” (Disney, $63 million, Mar. 31, 2010); “Message in a Bottle” (Warner Bros., $52.9 million, Feb. 12, 1999); “Nights in Rodanthe” (Warner Bros., $41.9 million, Sept. 26, 2008); and “A Walk to Remember” (Warner Bros., $41.3 million, Jan. 25, 2002).

As you’d expect with a romantic drama based on a bestselling book, “Lucky’s” tracking best with women under 25, for whom it’s a double digits first choice to see. Its second best tracking is with women over 25.

Next weekend will also bring the opening of the Steve Harvey bestseller-based romantic comedy “Think Like a Man,” directed by Tim Story (“Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”) and starring Chris Brown, Gabrielle Union and Kevin Hart. It’s tracking almost equally well with women under and over 25. It’s also showing huge tracking strength with African American moviegoers, a valuable core audience that should help drive it at the boxoffice.

Bottom line: Hollywood’s good at reading the handwriting on the wall and it says books have a big advantage at today’s boxoffice.