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In the past few years, movie franchises based on young adult novels have found a fairly simple way to generate extra sequels once the source material has run out: split the final book into two films. The Harry Potter series was the first to do this when Warner Bros. decided to make The Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 in 2010 and 2011, and since then we have seen the strategy copied by Summit Entertainment for both Twilight and Divergent, and then by Lionsgate when they started work on both halves of The Hunger Games Mockingjay. This pattern has proven to be fairly successful thus far, but not every young adult adaptation is following this course. Take, for example, The Maze Runner movies.
Despite the fact that the first Maze Runner film has been incredibly successful - having pulled in $223 million worldwide since debuting in mid-September - director Wes Ball has revealed that there are currently no plans to split the finale of author James Dashner's trilogy, titled The Death Cure, into two movies. The filmmaker revealed this bit of news to Digital Spy, saying,
"I think three is the number; beginning, middle, end, that's it. Four? I think there's something off about four. For me, if I have any say in it, there's three movies basically."
Given that the Death Cure is a moderately sized novel at 336 pages (shorter than Dashner's The Maze Runner), this strategy makes a good amount of sense from a narrative standpoint, I wonder if this is a thought shared by 20th Century Fox. Some fans have complained that splitting a final book into two parts is merely a cash grab that winds up weakening a full story, but studios have brought in a ton of extra cash by extending their franchises this way. Together, the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows movies made $2.3 billion worldwide. The Twilight Breaking Dawn films brought in $1.5 billion. The Maze Runner: The Death Cure probably wouldn't be able to generate those kinds of numbers, but one could see why Fox might at least consider doubling down.
While it sounds like Ball is liking the idea of a trilogy for The Maze Runner, it should be noted that Fox would have other options to explore if they decided not to split The Death Cure. In addition to the book trilogy, there is also a prequel title called The Kill Order and a follow-up called The Fever Code is being prepped to be released some time in 2016.
The first Maze Runner sequel, The Scorch Trials, is set to be directed by Wes Ball and is expected to go into production rather soon - given that it is scheduled to be released on September 18, 2015.