Why The Golden Age Of Stephen King Adaptations Could End

Let’s start with 2019’s It: Chapter Two. The follow-up to the 2017 blockbuster did not perform nearly as well as its predecessor, earning $473 million worldwide and not hitting the sweet spot with critics and fans as much as Chapter One. To be sure, the gross was sizable and profitable, and the movie did have its strengths, but sequels to hits like It are expected to equal or better the gross of the previous film, not fall short by roughly 33 percent.

Coming out on the heels of It: Chapter Two was Doctor Sleep, Gerald’s Game director Mike Flanagan’s highly anticipated sequel to both King’s The Shining and Kubrick’s film, based on King’s own novel. Despite many strong reviews (including from us), and the inclusion of iconic imagery from the Kubrick movie that King didn’t even include in his Doctor Sleep novel, the movie was a bust in theaters, earning just $72 million worldwide (it has shown new life on streaming platforms, however).

Earlier in 2019 we saw the release of Pet Sematary, a long-awaited new version of one of King’s most notorious novels, previously adapted in 1989. While King’s book is one of his best-known, right up there with The Shining, Carrie, The Stand, and It, the movie — which significantly altered the second half of King’s story — was not a smash success. It earned just $113 million around the world, enough to make it profitable (it cost $21 million to make), but ensuring a relatively quick disappearance from theaters.

And then there’s Castle Rock. The original Hulu series was given a lot of hype when it came on the scene in the summer of 2018, with a glittering cast (André Holland, Melanie Lynskey, Bill Skarsgård, Jane Levy, and Sissy Spacek) and a narrative that wove together characters, locations and plotlines from a number of different stories. The second season was perhaps even more ambitious, serving as a prequel to Misery while also working aspects of ‘Salem’s Lot and other tales.

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