Books To Screen Make Up 44% UK Box Office and 53% Worldwide

The report commissioned by the PA and produced by Frontier Economics explores what impact a book has when adapted for film, TV and theatre. The data was collected through a combination of qualitative interviews, case studies, publicly available information, data drawn from creative industry bodies such as the British Film Institute (BFI), the BBC, UK Theatre and Nielsen BookScan. There are several case studies in the paper that include My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier, The Night Manager by John le Carre, and Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty. 

The research found that films based on books took 44% more box office revenue in the UK (£5.4m) and 53% more globally ($91m or £68m) than those based on original scripts. As they talk about further in the report, you have a built in viewership based on the ‘readership’ that already exists for the content.

The report’s authors discusses that films can “leverage the popularity” of bestselling or well-known books through an existing audience. Films adapted from books also tend to have a richer, more fully-developed story to draw on.

Meanwhile, 43% of the top 20 box office-grossing films in the UK between 2007 and 2016 were based on books, with a further 9% based on comic books. As we have seen in the past few years, we are sure that the percentage of comics-based material certainly has increased, as well what is currently in-development.

“In short, published material is the basis of 52% of top UK films in the last 10 years, and accounts for an even higher share of revenue from these leading performers, at 61% of UK box office gross and 65% of worldwide gross.

Clipboard01They also found that UK-produced film adaptations have an on average, higher critical acclaim. Comic based films tend to have the highest average ratings, with book-based films slightly lower on average, but higher than films based on original screenplays. The critical success of comic based adaptations can usually be tied to the ‘fandom’ associated with comic IP’s, as well the merchandise and licencing behind such brands like DC and Marvel.


In one of the in-depth case studies, the Hollywood adaptation of “My Cousin Rachel” was shown to have a significant impact on the sales of the Daphne Du Maurier thriller. The sales of the book in 2017 alone accounted for nearly a quarter (23%) of all sales since 1992, both in terms of value and volume, according to the report.

In terms of TV adaptation, it was revealed that almost a quarter of dramas were based on literary sources and attracted a 56% larger share of the audience than those based on original scripts, according to data from the four major free-to-air UK TV networks between 2013 and 2017.

It states that 14 of the 35 high-end series produced in the UK in the period between January and September 2017 were based on books, compared to seven based on true stories or historical events and five based on pre-existing films or TV stories. Only nine were original true stories.

Meanwhile literary-sourced shows attract 1.3m viewers more, on average, than original-script TV shows (56% higher). The report revealed that out of the top 100 dramas broadcast (by audience figures) in the UK between 2013 and 2017, book-based shows accounted for 30% of productions and 37% of viewership.

The data also showed that shows based on a literary source have received 25% of the Best Drama BAFTA awards and 57% of the relevant Emmy wins.

In the case study of “The Night Manager”, broadcast on the BBC in 2016, the research revealed that while the John le Carre novel has being in circulation for over 25 years, 82% of the copies it sold have been in 2016 and 2017 alone. Sales of the standard (non-tie-in) paperback edition have remained strong even after the series went off the air, and were nearly 10 times higher a year later (2017) than the year prior to airing (2015).


In conclusion, the report argues that “there is a strong two-way relationship between publishing and the wider creative economy, in particular the screen and stage industries.

“The book and film or stage worlds clearly have a reciprocal relationship, wherein a successful adaptation often has spill-over effects and gives a substantial boost to the sales of the original book,” the report reads. “This can lead to synergies between the industries – a book spawning a screen or stage version, leading to increased sales of the book, increasing an author’s likelihood of writing more stories, which could then potentially be adapted themselves.

“This is only part of the story of publishing’s overall economic contribution, but is an important one.”

It’s the first time the PA has conducted a report specifically into books to film, TV and theatre adaptations and is “part of a wider strategy to better showcase the value and impact of the publishing industry and this is one of a number of reports we’ve commissioned. We knew there were significant links between publishing and these industries, but wanted detailed evidence about those connections,” they said. “The report really demonstrates just how strong these links are.”

Stephen Lotinga, c.e.o. of the PA, added: “Storytelling is at the heart of the creative industries and often the best stories begin with a book. This research shows the hugely positive commercial impact British publishing is having on film, television and theatre as our incredible authors’ ideas are the source of so many successful productions.”

“From the sprawling Harry Potter universe to the colourful stage adaptations of Roald Dahl’s timeless stories, British books are world-leading, and hold exceptional cultural relevance on a global scale. All of this success is only possible due to our gold-standard copyright system and at a time of great change we call upon the government to do everything it can to continue to support us.”

‘Publishing’s contribution to the wider creative industries’ follows another PA report conducted by Frontier Economics published in December which explored the broader economic contribution of publishing overall.’


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