The one thing that 2016 is guaranteed to have is more adaptations. The current cycle may be reaching a peak, but there are a number of adaptations in the pipelines still to be released. But if the peak is near, the two things that will mark getting past the apex is quality and audience reception.
Quality is tough to quantify, but, overall, adaptations today are far more faithful now than ever before. Studios have learned that the in-name-only adaptation is doomed to failure from the outset. Word of mouth is far faster today thanks to social media. Audiences can warn others about a movie’s flaws during a screening. At the same time, a movie that hits the heart of a work will also get audiences telling others about it. Social media is a double-edged sword for studios.
Audience reception is easier to measure. Box office returns, while not the best method, is still what studios look at as a measure of a film’s success. The dollar amount isn’t the only part looked at; the amount brought in compared to a film’s budget is key. An expensive film that brings in over a billion dollars, such as Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, isn’t the only success; a lower budget movie that still brings in ten times what it was made is also successful. As long as audiences keep going to adaptations, they will be made. One flop isn’t going to kill the current trend. It will take a number of failures over a short period to convince a studio to try something different. Thus, Universal’s failure with Jem and the Holograms isn’t going to dissuade the studio from continuing with the Fifty Shades of Grey series*.
Adaptations have always been a part of Hollywood. The coming year is will be no different. A backlash against the number of adaptations may be beginning, but it’ll take a few years before it gets felt. Studios have adaptations in various stages of production; cancelling will cost money, and there’s no indication now that audiences will stay away in droves in the hope for something original. Even then, the superhero movie is becoming a mainstay. Where the Western and the rogue cop films have far too much baggage to them to be regular features, the superhero can take the appeal of the other two genres without their drawbacks.
Even television isn’t immune to adaptations. Many series, including The Librarians, The Expanse, Dark Matter, and The Last Ship, are all adapted from other works. Expect more works to be adapted as television series; the format allows for a greater depth at the expense of the fickleness of ratings. Even the fickleness can be avoided; the 500-channel universe means that a work will find its audience. A Game of Thrones has proven to be a hit for HBO, bringing in subscribers tuning in for that one series.
As mentioned above, quality is the key. If the adaptation makes an effort to be faithful to the original work, audiences will watch. Studios are learning this; the failure of Jem and the Holograms is noteworthy because it failed to meet fan expectations. Fifty Shades of Grey met fan expectations, despite the casting choices. The lesson is there to be learned.
* Issues between director and author might cause delays, though.