The history of financially successful videogame-to-movie conversions is a pretty short one. The list of critically successful conversions is even shorter.
That doesn't mean there haven't been a few solid hits that got their start in the console world. Popular franchises tend to come with a built-in audience, and when Hollywood supplements that with a big star it can be an immensely profitable venture — often spawning one or more sequels.
Here are eight examples of gaming franchises that have managed to succeed on the big screen.
By Chris Morris, Special to CNBC.com
Posted 12 Oct 2011
Three of the top 10 game-based movies (as judged by box office receipts) are tied to Capcom's “Resident Evil” franchise. So far, there have been four of the Milla Jovovich-starring films, with a fifth planned for 2012. Critics haven't been especially kind, but the four films have grossed more than $202 million.
Perhaps the most famous videogame-based adaptations are the pair of films that starred Angelina Jolie. The first, released in 2001, has grossed more than $131 million to date — more than any other game-based film. The lesser-reviewed sequel earned a still-respectable $66 million. The franchise isn't finished, either. A planned 2013 reboot is expected to focus on the origins of Lara Croft (one year after a new “Tomb Raider” game explores the same theme).
Never underestimate the drawing power of a shirtless Jake Gyllenhaal. This 2010 Walt Disney release of “Prince of Persia” did quite well in the U.S., earning just shy of $91 million. It really took off in international markets, however, taking in $244 million and giving it a worldwide gross of $335.2 million — a record for videogame-based movies. Despite this, there are no current plans for a sequel — even though Gyllenhaal and producer Jerry Bruckheimer had both hoped to make the film part of a trilogy.
The “Pokemon” franchise is one of the strongest in gaming, so it shouldn't be a big surprise that it has done quite well in movie theaters. In fact, it occupies five of the top 30 spots, although no sequel has ever topped the performance of the 1999 original, which made $85.7 million. To date, the film series has made $149 million domestically.
The “Hitman” franchise isn't one that has automatic recognition among mainstream audiences, so many people who went to this 2007 release probably didn't realize they were watching a game-based film. That helped it earn $39.7 million — not exactly a windfall, but enough for Fox to greenlight a sequel, which is in pre-production.
“Mortal Kombat” has been the definition of a hit-and-miss franchise in theaters. The original film wasn't exactly loved by critics, but diehard fans of the game embraced it. It has made $70.5 million to date domestically. But the sequel? Mention it at your own peril. It made $35.9 million, but a cast overhaul and insipid plot made it widely loathed by players.
Written by an Academy Award winner (for “Pulp Fiction,” no less), “Silent Hill,” based on the survival-horror hit game, earned lukewarm reviews and didn't feature any notable stars, but a catchy poster (featuring a mouthless girl) and a well-crafted trailer helped it earn nearly $47 million domestically.
Mark Wahlberg didn't win over many critics with his attempt to play the revenge-driven titular cop in this 2008 action film. Gamers weren't particularly happy about the movie either due to the many changes to what is considered a fairly plot-driven title. The “Max Payne” game's popularity still drove audiences to see it, though, helping it earn $40.7 million domestically.