If “The Giver” had opened in the 1990s as originally intended, before the young adult dystopia boom, it could have been huge. Analysts estimate the film could open anywhere between $12 and $17 million this weekend, which is chump change compared to other movies in the genre.
Unfortunately for The Weinstein Company, the film’s distributor, we live in a post-“Hunger Games” world where the market is incredibly overstuffed with dystopian young adult projects. While some succeed, others flounder, and even though ‘The Giver’ may have been the novel that inspired the entire genre, its formula has been sucked dry by all the competition and the film is no longer as culturally relevant as a result.
The blockbuster “The Hunger Games” series likely would not have existed without Lois Lowry’s “The Giver,” and according to the film’s producer, “The Giver” film itself would never have made it to the screen if it weren’t for the success of “The Hunger Games.”
This seemingly mutual relationship is actually more one-sided than it appears — since “The Hunger Games” was released first, it not only stole “The Giver’s” proverbial thunder, but also its shot at financial success.
Rebecca Ford at The Hollywood Reporter reported on the film’s tumultous path from page to screen and points out a number of fascinating details, like the fact that adapting the novel has been a passion project of Jeff Bridge’s for nearly two decades.
Bridges originally wished to direct his father in a “Giver” adaptation, but the project slipped through the cracks time and time again, and he eventually lost the rights. In 2009,
Bridges got the rights back (after more failed attempts to set up the film at different production companies) and, after the success of “The Hunger Games,” Harvey Weinstein expressed interest in adapting the seemingly unadaptable novel. This time Jeff Bridges would play the role originally intended for his father.
Since the film was made on an estimated $US25-$30 million budget, it shouldn’t have any problem breaking even at the domestic box office. In that sense, “The Giver” is signifcantly smaller scale than most dystopian science-fiction, yet it’s certainly trying to be just as ambitious. While it will certainly recoup its budget and most likely turn a (relatively small) profit, the film will get nowhere near the exposure that it should for being an adaptation of the be-all, end-all dystopian YA novel that essentially started the trend.
In Hollywood, timing can be everything. While bloggers argue over whether the tension in Ferguson this week will affect the box office results for “Let’s Be Cops” (early estimates show that the answer to this quandry is “no”), in the case of “The Giver,” it’s just simply too late in the game for the film to thrive. The next instalment of “The Hunger Games” trilogy-plus-one is on the horizon, as is the sequel to this year’s slightly disappointing but still profitable “Divergent.”
No matter how great the film may be (reviews are fairly mixed), there is simply no room for “The Giver” in this crowded and over-saturated demo to make a real impact.
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