With ‘Potter’ & ‘Twilight’ Winding Down, Studios Hunger for Young Adult Novels

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From “Hunger Games” to “Mortal Instruments,” TheWrap’s DealCentral columnist looks at the next big youth-targeted franchises

What's the next "Harry Potter"? How about the next "Twilight Saga"?

WIth Harry Potter set to conjure his last spell on the big screen next month and the last "Twilight" movie due later this year, the race is on for studios to transform the next young adult literary property into theatrical gold.

There are a number of young adult adaptations in the works: Lionsgate has its hopes pinned on "The Hunger Games," a New York Times No. 1 bestseller due in theaters next year with Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role. Screen Gems is readying "The Mortal instruments," first in a series of six popular books, with Lily Collins as its star.

Melissa Rosenberg, who wrote all five of Summit's "Twilight" films, is writing and producing "Earthseed," Paramount's entry into the young adult novel-to-movie sweepstakes.

"'Twilight' did really well as movies and suddenly everyone's like, 'Let's get the next of that,'" Rosenberg told TheWrap.

But it's not easy. New Line had high hopes for "The Golden Compass" in 2007 – a bust at $70 million domestic box office on a $180 million budget.

"A popular book is no guarantee," said Rosenberg. "What works is good storytelling."

Here’s a look at the next crop of young adult adaptations: 

"The Hunger Games"
Author: Suzanne Collins
Studio: Lionsgate

Story: In a dystopian future, the 12 districts of the North American nation of Panem are forced to send two teens — a boy and a girl — to the "Hunger Games," an annual, televised fight to the death.

Stage of Development: Advanced. Lionsgate is betting a lot on the movie: Its cast includes Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz. Gary Ross is directing and rewrote the script with author Collins. The movie is now filming in Ashville, N.C., and has a release date of March 23, 2012.

Franchise potential: It looks bright. The book is one of a trilogy — and Lionsgate optioned the rights to make four movies.

"The Mortal Instruments"  
Author: Cassandra Clare
Studio: Screen Gems

Story: A supernatural story about a girl whose mother is attacked by a mysterious creature and taken from her home in New York. When the girl, Clary Fray, tries to get her mother back, she learns unnerving truths about her own bloodline.

Stage of Development: Advanced. Screen Gems has cast Lily Collins, who also stars in Relativity Media's untitled "Snow White" movie, as Clary, and Jamie Campbell Bower, a "Twilight" and "Harry Potter" alum, as a "shadow hunter." Scott Charles Stewart is directing Jessica Postigo's screenplay. Robert Kulzer is producing for Constantin Film and Michael Lynne and Robert Shaye are producing for Unique Features.

Franchise potential: Looks good. Collins is a rising star and there are six "Mortal Instruments" novels — and a trilogy of prequels planned.

"Earthseed"  
Author: Pamela Sargent
Studio: Paramount

Story: A group of teens born from a genetic bank on a spaceship has been bred and raised to be the last hope for human civilization.

Stage of Development: Coming along. Melissa Rosenberg, who wrote all five of Summit's "Twilight" films is writing and producing. It's also something of a passion project for Paramount Pictures Film Group president Adam Goodman, who read the book as a kid and has wanted to make it into a movie ever since.

Franchise potential: Looks bright. "Earthseed" is a trilogy and Rosenberg has proven that she knows the genre. And as a television writer, she looks at the movie as a pilot. "This is the first episode of what I hope will be many," she told TheWrap.

"Let It Snow"
Authors: John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle
Studio: Paramount

Story: Three intersecting short stories about a giant snowstorm on a Christmas Eve. The book was No. 10 on the New York Times list of bestselling paperback children's books.

Stage of Development: Early. Fake Empire, based at Paramount, acquired rights to the stories in May. Jordan Roter will write the script and Fake Empire's Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage are producing.

Franchise potential: Little or none.

 

"Legend
Author: Marie Lu
Studio: CBS Films

Story: Another dystopic future. It's 100 years from now, the oceans have risen and North America is split into two warring nations with totalitarian leaders. The totalitarians hire a teenage prodigy to hunt down a Robin Hood figure. Together, the hunter and the hunted learn an impossible truth about their leaders.

Stage of Development: Coming along. In this case, the book hasn't yet been released. Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey, of "The Twilight Saga" and "Dear John," are producing. Jonathan Levine is directing.

Franchise potential: Reasonable. Lu plans a trilogy.

 

"Ender's Game
Author: Orson Scott Card
Studio: Summit

Story: Our planet has been twice invaded by the Formics, an insectoid alien race. As Earth prepares for a third invasion, it drafts a boy, the brilliant Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, to train for intergalactic battle.

Stage of Development: Early. Gavin Hood, of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" will direct. Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are producing through K/O. Gigi Pritzker and Linda McDonough are producing through their OddLot, along with author Card and Lynn Hndee.

Franchise potential: Strong. Card's bestselling novel has been translated into 28 languages and has a  significant readership. The novel began as a short story and became a book and then a series.

 

"Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Studio: Summit

Story: Dystopian future. In this one, society is broken up into five factions, each representing a virtue: honesty, selflessness, bravery, peacefulness and intelligence. A 16-year-old girl leaves her faction for another, where she must endure a brutal initiation — and must save the young man she falls in love with.

Stage of Development: Early. FinePrint's Pouya Shabazian is producing with Red Wagon's Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher. Evan Daugherty is writing.

Franchise potential: Don't know. The book, published this past May, is meant as a trilogy, though.

 

"Wicked Lovely"  
Author: Melissa Marr
Studio: Universal

Story: 17-year-old Aislinn has seen dangerous faeries her whole life but has avoided harm by following stringent rules. Now, she is torn between a seductive Faery king and the mortal she loves.

Stage of Development: Reasonably far. Mary Harron, who directed "American Psycho," is directing. Caroline Thompson, who wrote "Edward Scissorhands" and "Corpse Bride," is adapting the novel. Vince Vaughn, Valeri Vaughn and Peter Billingsley are producing for Wild West Picture Show Productions.

Franchise potential: Good. "Wicked Lovely" is a New York Times bestseller that has sold in 26 languages. It's one of a series of five — the last of which "Darkest Mercy," was released this past February.

 

"The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox

Story: A boy named Thomas wakes up in "the Glade," an enclosed structure populated by other boys and surrounded by tall, stone walls that protect them from monsters called Grievers that live in a maze that surrounds the Glade. Every day, some of the kids venture into the labyrinth trying to map the ever-changing pattern of walls. Oh, Thomas has no memory.

Stage of Development: Early. Dashner is adapting the screenplay and the Gotham Group's Lindsay Williams is producing.

Franchise potential: Reasonable. "Maze Runner" is the first of a trilogy.

 

"Warm Bodies"
Author: Isaac Marion
Studio: Summit

Story: A zombie sparks a friendship with the girlfriend of one of his victims, triggering a chain reaction that could transform the world.

Stage of Development: Advanced. Jonathan Levine — who's also to direct "Legend" — is attached and is adapting the film. Bruna Papanadrea is producing. Nicholas Hoult stars.

Franchise potential: The book is a standalone.