Hollywood’s love of franchises means that it has become increasingly common for book adaptations to be stretched out into as many movie installments as possible. Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games and Divergent have all seen their final chapters get split into “Part 1″ and “Part 2″ in order to include as much material from the books – and, of course, to maximize box office profits.
Since shooting two movies back-to-back reduces production costs and releasing two movies instead of one increases the number of ticket sales, it’s easy to see why this practice has become popular, especially among the growing genre of young adult sci-fi novel adaptations. Despite the source material not being as widely-read as The Hunger Games or Twilight, Wes Ball’s feature directorial debut The Maze Runner was a modest fall success that has so far grossed over $200 million worldwide, far outstripping its $34 million production budget.
The Maze Runner sequel The Scorch Trials, based on the second book in author James Dashner’s series, was in development before the arrival of the first film and a release date was announced in the same week of The Maze Runner‘s release. With 20th Century Fox moving forward enthusiastically with The Maze Runner as a franchise it wouldn’t be surprising to hear news that the third book, titled The Death Cure, will also be split into two movies. In an interview with Digital Spy, however, Ball insisted that this isn’t going to happen.
“I think three is the number; beginning, middle, end, that’s it. Four? I think there’s something off about four. For me, if I have any say in it, there’s three movies basically… We’re not going to [split a book in two], no way. I think three movies is the right number. Star Wars!”
Since The Maze Runner is relatively low budget for a studio-produced sci-fi action movie, there’s less pressure on Ball’s movies to earn massive profits at the box office. It’s also worth noting that 20th Century Fox has yet to join in the trend of splitting book adaptations into multiple movies; the main culprits when it comes to this practice are Summit Entertainment (Twilight and Divergent), Warner Bros. (Harry Potter and The Hobbit) and Lionsgate (The Hunger Games).
Whether or not splitting up book adaptations this way is beneficial in terms of the overall quality of the films is up for debate. There are certainly instances where stretching the material out over 4-5 hours worth of film makes the individual installments feel overly padded, bloated and in need of editing (Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is a particularly salient example of this), but some fans of the novels might relish the idea of seeing even more of Thomas, Teresa and co. on the big screen.
The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials opens in U.S. theaters on September 18th, 2015.