Film, TV and theatre adaptations of books attract more revenue, viewers and critical acclaim

The UK publishing industry significantly increases the commercial and cultural value of film, television and theatre productions, acting as the foundation of the UK’s £92bn creative industries sector.

Research launched today produced by Frontier Economics for the Publishers Association demonstrates the contribution of publishing to the wider creative industries. The Contribution of Publishing to the Wider Creative Industries shows that as compared to original scripts and screenplays book adaptations attract on average:

  • 44% more in UK film box office revenue (and 53% more globally)
  • 58% higher viewership of ‘high-end’ TV productions
  • Nearly three times more ticket sales for theatre productions

Stephen Lotinga, Chief Executive of the Publishers Association said:

“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.”


Between 2007-2016, 52% of the top 20 (by domestic box office gross) UK produced films were based on published material. These films grossed £1.5bn in UK box office revenue and £22.5bn globally, accounting for 61% of total UK box office gross and 65% globally.

On average, these adaptations earnt 44% more revenue in the UK than films based on original screenplays, equating to an extra £5.4m per film. This rises to 53% globally, equating to $91m extra per film.

The report highlighted that adapted films not only perform better financially, but also perform better in terms of critical acclaim and awards. On a 5-star rating scale, adapted source material adds half a star, with the effects being felt predominantly for bestselling novels, literary classics, and adaptations of non-fiction books.


Books are also a popular source for high-budget TV series. Out of the 35 ‘high-end’ series produced in the UK during the period January – September 2017, 40% were based on books. Only 26% were based on original material, with the rest either a true story or adapted from another TV or film production.  

Of the top 100 television dramas broadcast between 2013-2017 on the UK’s free-to-air channels, those with literary origins attracted on average an additional 1.3m viewers per episode, equating to 58% higher viewership than dramas based on original material.


Not only do books translate well to the screen, but also to the stage. During 2016, 27 theatre productions adapted from books generated £25.8m of revenue. 

Book based productions make almost three times more in ticket sales than an original script, with family musicals generating 2.3 and plays generating 2.8 times more revenue than original shows. 

Shows based on books also tend to run for a longer period of time, with the top four longest-running productions in London’s West End based on literary sources.