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Books On the Big Screen

A Survey of 2,000 Americans Found...

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • December 09, 2021

We enlisted OnePoll to survey 2,000 Americans how they like to entertain themselves during the holiday season. Some of the things we asked about included book-to-screen adaptations, holiday movie favorites, and how much time Americans read during this festive season. Here's what we learned.

1. We like movies that are based on books.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents said that they were more likely to see a movie if they knew that it was based on a book. And—surprisingly to us—more than half said they usually watch the movie first and then read the book to compare after the fact.

And yet, over 70 percent were surprised to learn that some very popular movies were books first, including:

2. Most of us agree that the book is usually better.

Interestingly, more men than women (73 percent to 65 percent) hold this opinion, but 67 percent of our respondents generally prefer the book to the movie. Reasons for this were far-ranging, but 69 percent said it was because the book included more detail and 57 percent felt that the movie didn't match up to their imaginations when reading the book. The changes that bother people the most are characters who don't match physical descriptions from the book (52 percent) or have different personalities (51 percent), as well as a different setting or time period (43 percent). Yet three-fifths said these diversions don't matter if it creates a better story.

Interestingly, when asked to choose their favorite book-to-screen author, more men than women chose Nicholas Sparks (32 percent vs. 25 percent). Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, and J. R. R. Tolkien emerged as overall favorites.

3. We may disagree on what constitutes a "Christmas movie."

Our poll settled the age-old question of what constitutes proper Yuletide entertainment, defining it as any film that features Christmas-related characters (i.e. Santa Claus) (58 percent) or takes place during the holidays (55 percent).

At the same time, those who prefer nontraditional Christmas movies have different preferences, from fantasy and action to comedy and romance. While The Nightmare Before Christmas topped the list of unconventional yuletide flicks at 41 percent, more than a quarter (26 percent) said they consider Die Hard to be a Christmas movie. That's more than those who chose Trading Places (20 percent) and You've Got Mail (14 percent).

4. A good movie can be marred by glaring historical inaccuracies.

Respondents had the chance to tell us what they think are the worst historical inaccuracies in movies and television and here are some of the issues they called out:

  • In the series The Tudors, Henry VIII was depicted as a small, thin man, rather than the corpulent fellow he was known to be.
  • Shakespeare in Love suffered from many historical blunders including the modern beer glasses characters are seen drinking from and the Queen's attendance at a public play, which never would have happened.
  • In Braveheart, the Scots march around in kilts, but while the story took place in the 1300s, kilts weren't introduced in Scotland until the 16th century.
  • The makers of Bohemian Rhapsody changed many key details, like when Freddie Mercury learned he was HIV positive (after the Live Aid concert) and what really caused the breakup of Queen.
  • A whole slew of products show up in movies set at a time before they existed, like an iconic Gibson guitar in Back to the Future, the Granny Smith Apple in Pirates of the Caribbean, and a telescope in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

5. The holidays mean more reading! Yay!

Responses indicate that the average person typically reads about four and half hours a week, but that during the holidays they'll add around six hours. Reasons for this increase varied with 72 percent saying it was because it helps them relax during a stressful period and 67 percent citing an increase in spare time. If you're looking for a meatier novel to keep you occupied this season, here are some of the deliciously big books we've enjoyed tucking into lately.

Along with the parties, gifts, and family togetherness the holidays bring, many of us are just as excited about our reading and watching plans. What are you most looking forward to? Let us know if you have any thoughts on our survey in the comments or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram where we share daily book recommendations, literary tidbits, and more.

Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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