‘The book was better!’ – How literary adaptations contribute to the wider creative industries

‘The book was better!’ – How literary adaptations contribute to the wider creative industries

What do the world’s most popular TV show, 2018’s three highest-grossing films worldwide, and the top four longest-running productions on the West End all have in common? These immensely successful cultural phenomena, from HBO’s Game of Thrones to Les Misérables, are all based on good old-fashioned printed material. From books to comics and fairy tales, literary sources are a major source of inspiration for other creative sectors, be it film, TV or stage. The Publishers Association, which represents book and academic journal publishers in the UK, today launched a report by Frontier Economics exploring the links between publishing and the wider creative industries.

Our analysis, drawing on industry data and case studies, highlights how publishing adds value through all parts of the adaptation process – from discovery and ‘filtering’, through to production and marketing.

Book and comic adaptations accounted for around half of top UK film and TV productions, as well as a substantial share of theatre productions outside London.

Audiences seem to enjoy book adaptations as well, as:

  • Box office revenues of top UK films adapted from books in the last decade are around 50% higher than revenues from original films.
  • UK TV dramas based on books in the last five years have brought in 58% more viewers.
  • Plays and musicals based on books have sold nearly three times as many tickets as original theatre productions outside London.

This report is part of a series of studies that Frontier has produced recently for the Publishers Association, highlighting different ways in which publishing contributes to the UK economy. We have also examined the direct contribution of the publishing sector to the economy, and the value of textbooks to school education.

Frontier regularly advises clients in publishing, media and the creative industries.

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