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Read it First! Straight to the Small Screen

Elizabeth Graney, Librarian, Literature & Fiction Department,
Collage of films adapted from books
Films adapted from books that decided to go the streaming route

It has now been seven months since the original wave of business closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This means it has been seven months since new films have been regularly released in movie theaters. That equals a lot of films that missed their original release date. As theaters around the country closed to protect public health, film production companies were faced with a tough decision. Should they put off the film release until all health orders had been lifted? Should they risk a small release at the few theaters that remained open? Or, should they release the film via a streaming service and get the movie into the hands of the public? A straight to streaming release means a substantial loss of income as digital rentals do not add up to the same revenue like ticket sales. However, indefinitely postponing a release leaves production companies with no return on their investment and risks the public possibly losing interest in the film. Further complicating their decision is the traditional rule that Academy Award nominees must have had a theatrical release. The film industry is faced with the possibility of monumental and possibly permanent changes to the way films are distributed from here on out. Today we are going to take a look at a few films adapted from books that decided to go the streaming route. Some of these films had a brief theatrical run before hightailing it to the internet and others skipped the theater entirely.

Watch and Read at Home

Artemis Fowl
Colfer, Eoin

Artemis Fowl II is a twelve year old criminal mastermind intent on restoring his lost family fortune. When he discovers the existence of powerful and dangerous fairies living below ground, his greed threatens the peace between humans and all magical creatures. The film adaptation of Eoin Colfer’s beloved series, Artemis Fowl, was released digitally on the Disney + streaming platform in June.

The Call of the Wild
London, Jack

The story of Buck, a St. Bernard, who goes from spoiled house pet, to sled dog, to leader of his own pack. Call of the Wild is Jack London’s classic tale of the power of our primal instincts. Though the film opened in theatres in February 2020, it was quickly released digitally in late March as movie theaters around the nation closed. The film can be streamed on the Disney + service.

Austen, Jane

Jane Austen’s perennial classic, Emma, is the story of a well-intentioned, charming and clueless young woman who can’t help but meddle in the affairs of her friends. When, against the advice of others, she attempts to play matchmaker for her friend Harriet Smith, Emma finds herself in over her head. Though Pride and Prejudice is Austen’s most popular novel, many critics credit this comedy of manners as her masterpiece. The latest film adaptation of Emma opened in theaters in February but was released digitally in early May to account for the closure of physical theaters. You can rent Emma through the Amazon Prime streaming service.

How to Build a Girl
Moran, Caitlin

After being utterly embarrassed on television, fourteen year old Johanna Morgan decides to completely reinvent herself. And thus is born, Dolly Wilde: a hard-partying, heavy-drinking, foul mouthed music reviewer for a local magazine. As Dolly, Johanna discovers a world of sex, drugs and rock and roll. But while she’s making money and having a good time, Dolly may turn out to be someone Johanna wishes she had never met. Caitlin Moran’s How to Build a Girl is a no-holds-barred coming of age novel with some hearty 90’s nostalgia thrown in for good measure. The film adaptation, How to Build a Girl, had a very limited theatrical release in May and was quickly made available on Amazon Prime as a streaming release.

Human Capital
Amidon, Stephen

Drew Hagel’s perfect life is slipping down the drain: his job, his wife, his darling daughter, all seem irretrievably lost. So when he strikes up a friendship with a rich hedge fund manager, Drew thinks he has found a way to get it all back. But Quint Manning has problems of his own. As the fates of these families become intertwined, tragedy strikes and no one comes out unscathed. Stephen Amidon’s Human Capital explores the dark secrets that can lie beneath suburbia’s beautiful facade. The film adaptation of Human Capital was released digitally on March 20 on Amazon Prime. 

The Invisible Man
Wells, H. G.

After years of savage self experimentation, scientist Griffin has discovered a way to turn himself invisible. Bitter and half-mad from his work, Griffin decides to use his invention to rain terror upon the people of England. As he descends into ever more erratic and violent deeds, the townspeople of Iping, West Sussex must find a way to stop him. But how can they capture someone they cannot see? H.G. Wells’ unsettling novella The Invisible Man has inspired countless adaptations over the years. The 2020 film The Invisible Man, loosely based on Wells’ original work, was released in theatres in late February but quickly switched over to streaming in March. You can rent the film on the Amazon Prime streaming service. 

I Still Believe: A Memoir
Camp, Jeremy

I Still Believe is the memoir of musician Jeremy Camp whose first wife tragically passed away shortly after their wedding. After her death, Camp was inspired to write the song “I Still Believe” about his struggle to reconcile his overwhelming grief with his religious faith. His memoir recounts the story of his life and spiritual journey. The film adaptation opened briefly in theatres in early March but quickly pivoted to a streaming release on the Amazon Prime streaming service. 

The Song of Mu Lan

Before she was a Disney princess, Hua Mulan was a legendary figure in Chinese folklore. Desperate to save her elderly father from the war, Mulan cut off her hair and posed as a man to fight in his place. Mulan served her country’s military for many years and was honored by the emperor for her service. The 2020 Disney film adaptation of this legend was originally slated to be released in theatres in March but switched to a release on the Disney + streaming platform on September 4, 2020.

The One and Only Ivan
Applegate, Katherine

Ivan the gorilla has lived in an enclosure in the mall for over 20 years. He spends his time eating, watching tv and making art that his owner sells to the people who pass by. While certainly not happy, Ivan has grown used to his life and tries not to think about his distant memories of the jungle he came from. But when a baby elephant named Ruby is brought to the mall, Ivan begins to see his home for the cage it is and promises to find a way out for both him and Ruby. Originally scheduled to open in theaters in August, the film adaptation of Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan was instead released digitally the same month on the Disney + platform. 

The Secret Garden
Burnett, Frances Hodgson

After the death of her parents, ten year old Mary Lennox is sent to live with her elderly uncle Archibald Craven in the isolated Misselthwaite Manor. The house and its inhabitants are full of secrets, locked doors and hidden pasts. Who is crying out in the middle of the night? And why is there an overgrown garden hidden behind locked doors? Lonely and left to her own devices, Mary is determined to solve these mysteries and makes new friends along the way. Frances Hodgkin Burnett’s The Secret Garden is a timeless children’s classic. Originally scheduled to be released in theaters in April 2020, the latest film adaptation of The Secret Garden was released digitally in August. It is available for rent on the Amazon Prime streaming service.