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

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

Tuesday 10 July 2018
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, showing 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.


Notes to Editors
  1. For embargoed copies of the report, interviews and any related or supplementary material, please contact:
Kate Moffat
Senior Director FTI

020 3727 1175

Laura Vaughan

Senior Consultant FTI
020 3727 1509

Ruth Howells

Head of Communications
The Publishers Association 
020 7089 5829
07827 089 058

About Frontier Economics

Frontier Economics is Europe’s leading economic consulting firm. We specialise in the application of innovative analytical techniques to deliver robust analysis of a wide range of policies and regulatory frameworks. Our clients include governments across Europe, the wider public sector, charities and private sector firms. Our analysis is in line with HM Treasury appraisal and evaluation guidelines set out in the Green Book and Magenta Book. Particular areas of expertise include economic growth, social welfare analysis (cost-benefit analysis of policies and programmes and ex post evaluation of interventions), critical evaluation of evidence and the design of policies and regulatory frameworks.

About the Publishers Association

The Publishers Association (the PA) represents book, journal, audio and electronic publishers in the UK, spanning fiction and non-fiction, academic and educational publishing. Our members include global companies such as Elsevier, Wiley, Pearson, Penguin Random House, Hachette and the University presses, as well as many independent publishing houses. UK publishing generates up to £7.8bn Gross Value Added (GVA) for the wider UK economy and supports more than 70,000 jobs. Our objective as an association is to provide our members with the influence, insight and services necessary to compete and prosper. | @PublishersAssoc