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Does Oprah’s Book Club Kill Movies?

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When daytime talk show host / culture demagogue Oprah Winfrey raises her scepter and anoints a book as one of The Chosen, the ripple effect can be felt all the way to the forests that will need to be clear-cut in order to keep bookshelves fully stocked. And it gets better if, in the case of Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat Pray Love," Oprah fawns even more than usual, calling the book a "life-changer," a "phenomenon" and the start of a worldwide movement. Gilbert's story of a midlife spiritual quest has sold more than 6 million copies since her 2007 audience with O, and it's likely to add a couple million more to the bottom line now that the movie adaptation starring Julia Roberts has arrived in theaters. And maybe this once, Oprah had it right. While "Eat Pray Love" does seem to be falling short of worldwide-movement status (unless pasta sales at promotional partner Cost Plus World Market have spiked beyond belief), it appears poised to become the most popular movie adapted from any of the Oprah-anointed books, as evidenced by its strong $23.7 million dollar opening. That success speaks to many things, including, but not limited to: 1) Julia Roberts' box-office appeal in the right vehicle (i.e., when she smiles), 2) the dearth of movies geared toward middle-aged women, and 3) the abject failure of every other movie spawned from an Oprah's Book Club best-seller. Let's not understate that last point. Oprah's Book Club adaptations have killed careers. Directors go missing after making these movies. Only "The Reader," with its best-picture nomination and Oscar for Kate Winslet, can point to a measure of success, though it still couldn't wring more than $34 million from American audiences. The problem is that the books that Oprah picks tend to be grim, dense affairs, heavy on symbolism, intricate in structure and almost impossible to adapt without looking like an idiot. The intent is admirable; the result is typically failure. Want proof? Read on for a look at the seven Oprah club picks that have made it to the screen, along with a couple of related bonus titles:
© Julia Roberts in "Eat Pray Love"/©Columbia
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