When New Line Cinema bankrolled the Lord of the Rings series, it was obviously a big roll of the dice for the company.
It wasn't just that New Line founder Bob Shaye bet the whole studio on the trilogy, but fantasy wasn't a big genre then and hadn't been in years. Yet many were hoping LOTR would bring the fantasy genre back, and it did, big time.
It's been over a decade since the Lord of the Rings trilogy first launched, and now Variety tells us the fantasy genre is still going strong after all this time with Game of Thrones, Snow White and the Huntsman, which looked a lot more Tolkien than Disney, and the upcoming return to Middle Earth with The Hobbit. Not to mention, the LOTR and Harry Potter series should continue to bring in money through secondary markets for years.
As Variety points out, after Return of the King swept the Academy Awards, several attempts at launching a fantasy franchise flopped, including Eragon, The Golden Compass, and The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. Clive Barker's Arabat series, which Disney paid a ton of money for, hoping it would be the next Harry Potter, never got out of development hell.
But now as we just mentioned, Game of Thrones is a critical and ratings phenomenon, and Once Upon a time and Grimm on ABC and NBC respectively, are also doing well. So of course, as Variety tells us, the word in the business is get the next Game of Thrones. As one agent told the trade, "There is absolutely more appetite (for fantasy books) at the feature, cable and network levels right now." Thrones is also now considered the turning point for the genre, and now it's hotter than ever.
Interestingly enough, a lot of current young adult novels are part of the fantasy genre, which makes good potential properties for studios, because parents can go with their kids, and like The Hunger Games, you can get a lot of book sales synergy as well. And also with the foreign market being more important to a film's success than ever, fantasy works all over the world. As one agent told Variety, "The appealing thing about fantasy (to studio execs) is it's international (and timeless)."
Fantasy also isn't exclusively kids stuff anymore either. As Game of Thrones proves, there's plenty of room for complicated storytelling, deeper characters and modern day metaphors that appeal to a wide variety of audiences, not just diehard fans of the genre.