×

'Hunger Games: Mockingjay 2' hits theaters, readers rejoice

Actress Jennifer Lawrence attends the 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 2' New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on November 18, 2015 in New York City.
Jim Spellman | WireImage
Actress Jennifer Lawrence attends the 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 2' New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater on November 18, 2015 in New York City.

Jennifer Lawrence returns to the big screen Friday in "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2," and bookworms everywhere rejoice. The film is the last in a hugely successful series and promises to live up to the hype.

How many times have you heard in a friend's movie review, "It was good, but the book was better?"

Well more often than not, that seems to be true. Internet reviewers tend to prefer the book versions of the stories that have been made into movies, according to a Big Crunch analysis. Only a few movies have better ratings than the books they're based on.

We used ratings data from Goodreads and the Internet Movie Database to run the numbers on recent book-to-movie productions.

Overall, the book versions score higher than their film progeny. The average Goodreads rating for our sample was 3.95 out of 5, while IMDB's average was 6.64 out of 10. Granted, the sample is slightly skewed: These are stories that proved themselves popular enough as books to warrant a movie version. As has been noted, Web ratings systems tend to exaggerate the public's opinion of a particular piece.

To normalize the data above, we calculated the z-score for each movie's rating, a statistical measure of the figure's distance from the average.

All three of the previous "Hunger Games" book/movies have made it into the "good book, good movie" quadrant, though "Mockingjay - Part 1" only just made it. "Mockingjay," the book, has a Goodreads score of 4.03 out of 5, so as long as the movie lives up to its media reviews, the franchise should remain above average.

Even if a book gets a lot of press, it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to draw high ratings on either review site. Still, a book's popularity can catapult a mediocre movie into a money-making machine.

"Fifty Shades of Grey," for example, has a 3.7 rating out of 5 on Goodreads but just 4.2 out of 10 at IMDB. The movie earned $166 million at the domestic box office on a budget of only $40 million, giving it a massive return on investment, according to data from Opus Data.

There's really no better marketing for a book than a movie version, at least among young readers. Data from Renaissance Learning show how "The Hunger Games" books got a big boost when Katniss Everdeen made her big-screen debut in 2012.

The big peak came with the first movie, but there are still modest spikes when the second films in the franchise were released. Renaissance's software, Accelerated Reader 360, gains insights from over 9 million students across the country so it provides a pretty good sample of reading habits.

"I'd also note though that each subsequent wave sees a slightly smaller peak in readership," Eric Stickney, Renaissance's director of educational research, wrote in an email. "It's interesting that while The Hunger Games books are still enormously popular, they've been out for a while and are potentially not as 'hot' as they initially were."