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Publishers want bigger piece of the picture pie

Random House won’t settle for $7-million – they want a bigger piece of the The Devil Wears Prada movie pie! As the film nears the coveted $100-million box office mark, according to an L.A. Times story yesterday, Random House is crying foul that all they’re getting out of the deal is book sales from a movie tie-in cover edition (to the tune of seven mil, those crybabies!).

It’s merely the latest in a string of adaptation cheats, so now New York publishing houses, according to the story, “galled by decades of this kind of equation, have launched ventures intended to get a bigger piece of the Hollywood action.” Publisher’s Weekly editor Sara Nelson says that many publishing folks suffer from film envy. “Movies based on books can make a lot more money than books, and people in publishing have watched for years as film companies make profits on novels they’ve developed. They want a bigger role.”

Random House is leading the charge, and aren’t afraid to put their money where their complaints are; they’ve already partnered with Focus Features. “The publisher will not only open its vast holdings to the filmmaker, but it will also put up half the money for the movies that result, on projects costing up to $20 million. It marks the first time a major U.S. publisher has gambled on such a scale in Hollywood.”

They’re not the only ones. “HarperCollins, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., publishers recently announced a plan to transform books into television series through an aggressive in-house partnership with Fox TV Studios. Elsewhere, Penguin Group (USA) is allying itself with Walden Media to develop movies and television properties based on its books. Simon & Schuster, part of the corporate universe that includes CBS and Paramount, continues to pursue a host of book-to-movie projects, as does Hyperion, which is part of the conglomerate that includes Disney films and ABC.”

The partnership has its critics, too, though, with some claiming that forcing publishers and movie-makers to work together could backfire “because they do not share the same priorities and may as well be on different planets,” according to the story. And while there may be film envy among the NY literati, there’s “publishing fear” in Hollywood, according to Amy Schiffman, an agent who handles book-to-movie deals for the Los Angeles-based Gersh Agency. “Some people on the West Coast are intimidated by those in the New York book business. They think publishers know something that they don’t know — that they’re smart, and more intellectual, that they really understand the written word better than others do.”

Sounds like a match made in heaven already.

Related links:
Read the L.A. Times story here