Readers fond of debating what’s better — the book or the movie — will have much to discuss at theaters this year.
Just as 2018 brought such literary adaptations as “Crazy Rich Asians,” “BlacKkKlansman” and “The Hate U Give,” 2019’s slate of films is similarly packed with movies based on books. The 20-plus tomes bound for the big screen this year include Rhidian Brook’s bestseller “The Aftermath,” now playing, A.J. Finn’s suspenseful “The Woman in the Window,” Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Goldfinch,” and a host of other thrillers, mysteries, romances, fantasies and works of nonfiction.
In addition to those mainstream releases, one renovated Sandy Springs cinema also screens classic films, many based on some of the most beloved books of all time.
“It’s not surprising Hollywood continues to mine bookshelves for material for feature films,” said nationally syndicated film critic Rick Bentley. “Adapting C.S. Forester’s ‘The Good Shepherd’ for Tom Hanks or ‘Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats’ by T.S. Eliot with Taylor Swift in the production continues the trend of banking on the immediate recognition value that comes with such a project over one that is based on an original script.”
As Bentley noted, the practice dates to the early days of cinema, when movies were made from great American novels, like Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” or L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz.”
“And if a book spawns a hit movie, it will be a film source multiple times,” he continued. “Some books, such as ‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott — being adapted into a film to be released at Christmas –—have been turned into numerous film versions dating back to a silent version in the late 1910s. There have also been multiple versions of Jack London’s ‘Call of the Wild,’ including two animated versions, to go along with another Christmas release this year.”
As Bentley said, movie executives tend to think books-to-films — like Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary,” coming April 5 — have legions of loyal fans anxious to snag opening-weekend tickets.
However, as every bibliophile knows, celluloid versions of cherished writings don’t always delight.
“There have been two primary problems with adapting books,” Bentley said. “Some works are so huge they are difficult to cut down to a movie length of two hours. This has been one of the biggest complaints of the Harry Potter films, based on the works of J.K. Rowling. Major chunks of the books have to be left out.
“Or, the adaptation is off, such as the upcoming ‘It: Chapter Two.’ The original book — and now this sequel — tells the story of King’s primary characters as both children and adults,” Bentley said. The 2017 adaptation, “It,” focused only on the youngsters. Those who haven’t read the book won’t notice such changes, he said, and fans may be forgiving.
“It is interesting to note the only film based on a book scheduled to open in the summer blockbuster period of May 1 through Labor Day,” he said, “is the movie version of ‘The Sun Is Also a Star’ by Nicola Yoon.
“Summer movies are so critical to a studio budget, the films released during that period tend to shy away from more cerebral offerings,” Bentley explained. “The summer has become the main release period for films based on comic books, another form of adapting the printed word for the big screen.”
Page-to-screen transformations are often featured at The Springs Cinema and Taphouse, 5920 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. Formerly the Lefont Sandy Springs, a $2.5 million renovation now offers moviegoers a full bar and luxury recliners with heated seats, among other amenities.
New owner Brandt Gully wanted to create a state-of-the-art entertainment venue for adults, families and groups. To accomplish that, mainstream, independent and foreign films join a rotating roster of classic movies, many adapted from some of the bestselling books of all time.
In addition to new films from books, The Springs offers twice-weekly screenings of timeless motion pictures inspired by masterpieces like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Gone With the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz.” In April, the classic series includes “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” from Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
“I love that we can see blockbuster movies as well as independent and classic films at The Springs,” said April Kemp of Johns Creek. Kemp and her husband, Tim Hanson, are creators and hosts of the movie review podcast HeSaidSheSaidMovies.com, which partners with The Springs for fundraisers and educational events.
“As a movie reviewer and reader,” Kemp said, “variety helps.”
Contributing journalist, Kathy Des Jardins Cioffi. Owner of Johns Creek’s KRC Communications. Connect with her at krccom.com.