The major phenomenons in cinema are nearly always adaptations. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings was an epic series that had a legion of fans with online fan websites, and it was popular with teens and adults. Then came Harry Potter, which revolutionized the franchise that stemmed from a mega-popular book series and brought in people from ages 8 – 80. Most recently the Twilight saga is the ‘it’ series, which built up a huge following in readership and online before the books were even optioned, and achieved the title of ‘phenomenon’ even though it’s readership is nearly entirely female. Every series is very different, new, and exciting; I don’t believe there will be two extremely similar phenomenons back-to-back. This makes them hard to predict! Now, with only one movie in the Twilight franchise left, what comes next?
The way we find out is to look in the online evidence. Of course, the “next big thing” is going to be a huge money-maker for whichever studio grabs onto that gem of a series, so everyone is trying to find it. I’ve found that many studios are nabbing the rights to just any new book with a catchy story, and funnily enough, many fans are latching onto their choices; gobbling up the novel and creating fan twitters, fan websites, and expecting that series to explode into Twilight-sized mega-hugeness! However, I don’t think the quantity-over-quality mindset will work well. It may seem like it could work, they think they can buy up the rights to many great new books that (I do agree) have fantastic stories and will make awesome movies. The studios are thinking: There must be a gem in the pack. One of these books might just have that draw to create a phenomenon.
The reason why this does not work is that the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Twilight, all had huge readerships before the books were even picked up by a studio. Fans heard about the books becoming movies and were immediately worried, and questions popped up in their heads like: “Who is going to play my favorite character?” ” I don’t want them to ruin my favorite story on screen!” “I need to know what is happening, right now, in the production of this film!” Sure, these new books may be fantastic, but they don’t have the volume of bodies who are excited, anticipating, and shaking in their boots just waiting for the film to come out. Marketing and advertising can bring some of the general audience and draw in a few people that wouldn’t have seen the movie otherwise but this is not why the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises just worked. To create a phenomenon you have to have that pre-existing audience; that group of thousands or even millions that wants to see the movie even before casting or marketing begins.
Right now people have their eyes on The Hunger Games as the possible next big thing, and while I agree that is the closest franchise to this specific mold, the fanbase is not as big as Twilight and Harry Potter was before the films. We may be surprised by their passion though, and maybe the series will reach that level. Zombies are also becoming very trendy, with The Walking Dead, a popular television show on AMC, and the upcoming movie Warm Bodies, an adaptation of the novel by Isaac Marion. What do you think will be the next teen phenomenon?