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’21 Jump Street’ is in theaters now, starring Channing Tatum and recent Academy Award nominee Jonah Hill. It is loosely based on the 1987 television series of the same name, which launched the career of Johnny Depp.
The movie has already proven to be a favorite of the critics and strong box office performer, grossing over $100 million worldwide since its release on March 16. Sony recently announced that a sequel is already in the works, and that stars Tatum and Hill are expected to return.
The film’s success can perhaps be attributed to its accessibility to audiences unfamiliar with the 1980s television series. It features a new cast, makes contemporary cultural references (Tatum’s character cites ‘Glee’ as the reason for the new high school hierarchy), and offers only passing remarks about its 1980s predecessor (Nick Offerman’s character notes that in their jobs, “all they do now is recycle stuff from the past and expect us not to notice”).
Michael Bacall’s screenplay keeps things simple and sharp, while directing duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller keep things moving at a snappy pace, leaving behind all traces of the brand’s past screen life.
Making the transition from television to film has been a tricky business in the last couple of decades. From ‘The X-Files’ to ‘The Simpsons,’ producers have attempted to find the right balance between continuity from the series and accessibility for new viewers. Here is a brief look at how some have fared:
‘The Simpsons Movie’ – Budget: $75 million / Box Office: $527 million.
After several years of talks and delays, the big-screen adaptation of FOX’s long-running animated series was released in summer 2007. ‘The Simpsons Movie’ was a huge box office success and garnered strong critical acclaim, being nominated for a Golden Globe, a Critics’ Choice and four Annie Awards. Its success has been credited with reinvigorating interest in ‘The Simpsons,’ as the series recently celebrated its 500th episode and was renewed through the end of the 2013-2014 television season.
‘Sex and the City’ – Budget: $65 million / Box Office: $415 million.
HBO’s 2008 adaptation of its hit series proved to be a huge box office success and the biggest ever R-rated opening for a comedy. The film came four years after the series went off the air, and picked up on many of the narrative strands left presumably resolved in the final episode.
As audiences continued to flock, a sequel was greenlit, the budget was increased to $95 million, and it hit theatres in May 2010. However, the sequel grossed a weaker $295 million and was critically maligned, all but ending future big-screen outings for the franchise. Still, The CW network recently ordered a pilot for ‘The Carrie Diaries,’ a prequel series charting the adventures of Carrie Bradshaw through her adolescence, showing the studios’ belief in the brand still having an impact on the small screen.
‘The X-Files’ – Budget: $66 million / Box Office: $189 million.
Right in the middle of the sci-fi thriller’s ninth season run on FOX, came its first film adaptation featuring stars Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. The film almost tripled its budget, received generally positive reviews, and capitalized on the success of the series’ highest-rated season.
However, it would be ten years, and six years after the series went off the air, before a sequel would be released. ‘The X-Files: I Want to Believe’ was released in July 2008 with a budget of just $30 million, grossing $68 million. While it still earned back its budget, the numbers were significantly lower than what fans had hoped, and have cast serious doubt on whether a third film will be made.
Then there is the case of the long-awaited ’24′ feature film, based on the FOX series of the same name, which ran for eight successful seasons between 2001 and 2010. The film has been stuck in development for several years, even while the series was in the midst of its run.
In March of this year it looked like the cast and crew would soon be ready to commence production. However, delays in finding a director and scheduling conflicts with star Kiefer Sutherland have meant that the film has been shelved for at least another 12 months. Like ‘The X-Files,’ ’24′ was heavily serialized and had declined in the ratings toward the end of its run. It therefore might struggle to succeed on the big screen as more years go by with it out of production.
Yet with the success of ’21 Jump Street’ more than two decades after the end of its television run, there is hope that the issue of ‘timing’ is just one of many needed for the successful transition of a television series into film.
Case in point is ‘Glee: The 3D Concert Movie,’ which was released last summer and failed to replicate the success of the television series, ultimately grossing just $18 million. TV-to-Film adaptations is a tricky business, but one in which networks and studios are perpetually interested in trying to get right.