Media Money with Julia Boorstin

Kids Book + Grown-Up Movie = Box Office Hit?

Where The Wild Things Are

Hollywood loves a familiar brand — there's a reason why nearly every blockbuster is based on a comic book, TV series, or book, or old movie.

An established brand has built-in awareness, making it easier to market as a film movie. (Getting people to know a movie's title seems half the battle).

And as the studios make fewer big-budget films each year and watch their marketing costs, it's more important for each movie to have guaranteed, and ideally broad, appeal.

This weekend "Where the Wild Things Are" is a different twist on the familiar trope of turning a kids book into a film.

Directed by Indie film king Spike Jonze, the movie is dark, with a sophisticated score, clearly targeting adults. Warner Brothers' wide release is trying to score with two different audiences. The big question seems to be whether the film is *too* scary for the kids who are age-appropriate to read the illustrated book.

Still, the strategy makes sense: the movie cost an estimated $80 million, so why not play on adults fondness for the book they read as kids, while also getting kids to ask their parents to take them. Plus adult movie tickets cost more. In Hollywood a so-called "four quadrant" film (young, old, male, female) is the ultimate home run. While adults are key at the box office, kids are key for home video sales — DVD sales of family films have held up far better than the rest of the DVD business.

Movies based on kids’ books for kids are old hat — see "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" earlier this fall. It's adapting kids books into movies for an older audience that seems to be the new trend. Next month 20th Century Fox is releasing Wes Anderson's take on Roald Dahl's "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Voiced by George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Cate Blanchett, there's certainly adult appeal.

Then in March Disney is releasing Tim Burton's dark take on "Alice in Wonderland" — this isn't about her first trip down the looking glass, but ten years later when she returns to the odd, ghoulish world. The real star of this film is Jonny Depp, who should have no problem drawing adults to theaters.

The Holy Grail is a "Harry Potter," which has generated $1.7 billion at the US box office alone. The franchise started off as a more traditionally kid-friendly book adaptation. But a wide demographic turned out to the first film, and as the films continued to get darker and darker. Then again Harry Potter is quite a unique publishing phenomenon. We'll see if the studio behind the Potter franchise can weave the same kind of magic with "Wild Things" this weekend.

Questions?  Comments?