But a book made into a movie doesn’t guarantee a hit. Especially if they screw with it too much. See Bonfire of the Vanities, for instance.
Ralph Bakshi’s version of The Lord of the Rings certainly wasn’t a big hit.
If there were a surefire formula, film studios would stick to it with no deviation. Stephen King, as popular a novelist as the culture seems capable of producing, has had a handful of very good and popular movies made from his books–and a string of unwatchable turds. His direct involvement with the films has not, for the most part, been beneficial. Thomas Harris, another highly-regarded novelist, had two huge hit movies based on them (Black Sunday and Silence of the Lambs), a well-regarded box office dud (Manhunter) and three bloated suckfests (Hannibal, Red Dragon and Hannibal Rising).
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events had all the elements of a “can’t miss” blockbuster, but it sank without a trace and I see no signs of a sequel in the offing. Ironically, the thing that helped most in getting the film produced and distributed–Jim Carrey’s involvement–is probably the thing that most damaged it. Daniel Handler has a bunch of other film projects going, none of them under his “Lemony Snicket” identity.
‘Hannibal’ may be a suckfest but it made $350 million worldwide. 'Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events made $209 million worldwide. Not enough for the studios heads to think ‘Harry Potter’, but certainly not “…it sank without a trace.”
A best-selling book is a good target for a movie adaptation because plenty of people have heard of it but not read it. They get the summary version.
Nothing guarantees success, but adapting a best-seller gives you an advantage – assuming you can make a good movie from it. If the movie sucks, then it will fail. I don’t know of any cases where a best seller was made into a good movie that flopped.
The Romanov Prophecy, by Steve Berry, has the makings of a good movie. In a John Grisham / Dan Brown kinda way it’s written with movie-like build-ups and suspense and action and such.
And it’s been a little while since any mainstream film went to the whole Nicholas & Alexandra, Rasputin, Anastasia story. Hasn’t been much on this since the animated musical from about a dozen yrs ago?
The Lemony Snicket movie was based on the first three of a thirteen-part book series. I think the studio was hoping that it would do well enough that they could make more movies from the rest of the series, but it doesn’t look like they’re going to make any more. I think they would like a franchise as successful as the Harry Potter or the LOTR film series.
Just last night I saw Mother Night, a film based on a Vonnegut book. I had no idea it had ever been filmed. It was pretty good, but obviously not a blockbuster. Neither was that particular book, though.