By The Book: After
Okay, let's try this again.
After a horrible audition with The Hate U Give (predicted $1m opening, actually came in at $500k) I went back to the drawing board to try refining my methodology. Many book movies have come out since; it's time to give this another go.
Here at By The Book, I try to use book sales to help determine whether a book's movie adaptation has what it takes to shine. This process only shows an impact when the book sales and the book fandom spark. Take two examples from last year: Crazy Rich Asians and A Simple Favor. CRA was a box office force, holding the top spot three weeks in a row, and the book sales and chatter leading up to it were clear indicators that something big was happening. It topped all the paperback lists for months on both sides of the movie's release. On the opposite end we have ASF, whose fandom barely exists and whose book sales topped out in the middle ranges, showing only small signs of impact from a movie release. But it had fair box office results despite that, using a combination of star power and borrowed themes from other recent successes in the genre like Gone Girl. I'm trying to determine if a book has actual buzz, and if so, how much that will influence people to go see the movie.
This week's debut is After, an adaptation of the novel by Anna Todd. You've probably heard a million things about this book by now: that it was written in daily installments using Wattpad; that it started as Harry Styles fanfiction; that its lead male, to quote Jezebel.com, "behaves at best like a *****, at worst like an abusive boyfriend in the making." I'm not here to confirm or deny these things: I'm here to point out that this probably isn't the first time you've heard these things. The book has buzz! The paperback finally cracked the New York Times Best Sellers list this week. It's ranked top 10 in its Amazon demographics, though not quite top 100 in the overall. It is, however, in the Barnes and Nobles top 50. Add to all this that the two printings out there are counted differently and you've got a book that's making sells!
The two immediate comparisons most make are to Twilight ($69.6m) and 50 Shades of Grey ($93m). After is not those two books. Twilight was an uncanny phenomenon with book sales that dominated teen (and adult) reading lists throughout its entire run. It was memed ruthlessly and credited for an entire wave of young adult creature fantasy that came after. (Even for some that came before!) It's a legendary book in the print industry. 50 Shades of Grey was a cultural shockwave that made America question what it knew about sexuality. (Hint: romance novels have been sexy, risque, taboo, and all other 50 attributes long before Christian Grey opened his… um… pocketbook.) When a book is blamed for things that already exist in its industry, you have a giant on your hands. These titles had unparalleled gusto. After has a lot less pedigree.
So what can we compare it to? After has had a certain degree of readers asking about the book specifically because the movie is on the way. What I'm looking for are books that had that same uptick in sales and anticipation. Here are some suggestions:
Me Before You ($18.7m, 2704 theaters) - Starring Emilia Clarke at the height of fame, Me Before You isn't quite the sexy thrill ride that After is, but there's plenty of crossover viewership to go around. Book sales for Me Before You were very active before its movie release, with constant placements on the Barnes and Noble best sellers lists throughout its run. They weren't shockwave sells, but they did carry plenty of conversations in the bookstore.
Five Feet Apart ($13.1m, 2803 theaters) - Teen movies just don't do well compared to their adult counterparts unless they are THE TEEN BOOK of the day. (Twilight, Hunger Games, etc.) You'll see a lot of well received, successful teen titles like this live almost entirely on buzz alone. The sales for Five Feet Apart have been good ever since it came out, and it's been on and off teen best seller lists for months. But the buzz has only somewhat been there. It picked up greatly once Cole Sprouse was tied to the project, but it was never the conversation piece that, say, The Fault in Our Stars was.
Paper Towns ($12.6m, 3031 theaters) - Speaking of John Green novels, the YouTube sensation is a study in popularity and trickle-down goodness. He broke into the upper echelons of legendary YA status with the aforementioned The Fault in Our Stars. All of his other novels have had countless days on bestsellers lists with plenty of talking points to call their own (if Looking for Alaska ever becomes a movie, we'll have to examine how a book being banned contributes to this whole examination), but none have quite had the impact of TFiOS. Paper Towns had the buzz of being a John Green novel, albeit nearly a decade separated from when it was originally published. It wasn't the book that broke Amazon pre-sale records. It wasn't the book dads and grandmas were reading alongside their children. It wasn't the book that demanded to be made into a movie just through its existence alone. Hype is difficult to measure, and unique from case to case, but this movie feels at a comparable level for our uses.
Nearly 1000 words in and all I can say is that After has the right kind of selling points to overperform. Showing at only 2000 theaters dims its ability to shine, but I see it performing in the $4000 - $5000 range per theater, giving an estimate between $8m - $10m. Calling for it to be a runaway BP is perhaps too bold or foolhardy, but I'm gonna put my faith in the research.Apr 11, 2019, 12:17am PDTEdited
Nice work. I agree with youApr 11, 2019, 3:16am PDT
Thats good stuff right there @rush_clasicApr 11, 2019, 5:28am PDT
To play devil's advocate, does it scare you a little that the 3 films you list had a major studio backing them(WB, Fox & Lionsgate) while After's is Aviron which only has 4 releases under its belt so far?Apr 11, 2019, 12:34pm PDT
To play devil's advocate, does it scare you a little that the 3 films you list had a major studio backing them(WB, Fox & Lionsgate) while After's is Aviron which only has 4 releases under its belt so far?
I don't have a clear understanding on how much impact a studio has on a movie's success. I feel that it works backwards for a majority of movies: the more appealing the project, the more likely a bigger studio is to snag it. I think there's some concern to be had. The trailer probably hasn't reached far outside the circles it's aimed at. All the more interesting: how much can buzz direct traffic into these theaters?Apr 11, 2019, 2:16pm PDTEdited