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When you land a hit with a movie like Murder on the Orient Express, there’s no telling what else is on the horizon. Obviously the continued success of Kenneth Branagh’s Hercule Poirot adaptations, and a potential Agatha Christie Cinematic Universe, is something that feels like the most likely outcome for such a fantastic fate. But besides the fact that the 2017 film spawned a sequel with Death on the Nile is only part of the excitement that’s surrounded Ms. Christie’s legendary literary canon, as book sales for her novels spiked after one simple line was dropped at the end of Poirot’s first big ride back into theaters.
To set the scene without spoiling Murder on the Orient Express, we see Hercule Poirot solve the mystery of who killed Johnny Depp’s Edward Ratchett. Getting off the famed locomotive at a frigid stop along its route, Inspector Poirot is met by a man to collect him straight away. Just as he’s finished solving one mysterious killing, the Belgian sleuth is being drawn into a brand new mystery, with a very specific tale in mind. It’s here, where the following portent is spoken:
I have to take him to Egypt straight away. There’s been a murder, sir. Right on the bloody Nile.
Just as Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green had planned, and to which Branagh had spoken about when touring for Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile was primed to become the next Poirot mystery on the tracks. It was a subject that came up in conversation between myself and James Prichard, Agatha Christie’s great-grandson and the CEO/Chairman of Agatha Christie Limited, as we had an opportunity to talk while I was visiting the set of this latest film, on behalf of CinemaBlend. In his own words, that big callout during the finale lead to a pretty spectacular boost in print sales. Which, as you’ll read for yourself, absolutely pleases Prichard to no end:
The amazing thing was after that line on Murder, Death on the Nile took off, straight after we mentioned it in Murder on the Orient Express. And we’ve had an increase in sales of everything currently, and actually, particularly in the US. Which is one of the most pleasing things. So yes, we obviously sold a considerable of Murder on the Orient Express, but we’ve also sold a considerable number of everything.
With Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, respectively the 10th and 17th novels in the Hercule Poirot series, enjoying these good fortunes, that’s enough proof that the films Kenneth Branagh and his all-star casts are adapting are giving the people what they want. To have the entire Agatha Christie catalog see the same sort of attention is positively proof that the famed mystery writer’s works continue to have an amazingly long life. And Death on the Nile’s release couldn’t come at a better time in history.
As 2020 marks 100 years since the first publication of The Mysterious Affair at Styles, this particular anniversary marks both Agatha Christie’s first novel and the origin of Hercules Poirot’s literary life. Those sales, and the new age of large scale theatrical adaptations of Christie’s books, are a pretty solid sign that her works, and the media they typically thrive in, aren’t going away anytime soon. Which, strangely enough, is the complete antithesis of what people have been telling James Prichard for some time, as explained further along in our conversation:
Joking aside, all my life I had preached to me that Agatha Christie won’t go on forever. Well, now I think I’m old enough to argue that it will. But also, my background was in publishing, and there was always ‘The Book is dead.’ Well ‘The Book’ isn’t dead, and I think what is fascinating is that a lot of people went to watch Murder and then went out and thought ‘Well, actually I want to read an Agatha Christie book.’
Listening to Mr. Prichard telling me this story reminded me of the classic moment in Ghostbusters where Harold Ramis’ Dr. Egon Spengler delivered his memorable and often repeated line: “Print is dead.” Whether the man was referencing the fact that books are literally deceased trees or he was calling the shot decades ahead of time in terms of book sales on the whole, the man said something that stuck. At least, it seemed to have stuck with everyone except true believers in the printed word, among which James Prichard is clearly a fixture.
But if “the book is dead,” then how do we still get tons of film adaptations of books like Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile? Greater still, how do they wind up cashing in on a long haul run like Murder did, especially in a market where first weekends make the largest impressions, and major cinematic universes battle other pre-existing IP for supremacy? Without printed media, Fifty Shades of Grey, the Twilight series and even the Marvel Cinematic Universe wouldn’t be the successes they are today. Just as film adaptations help sell the books, those tomes in turn sell the movies that we see come along the way; as is readily apparent by the fact that even audience members were drawn to cinemas by the cool neon lights and Imagine Dragons music from the trailer for Murder on the Orient Express, they certainly left wanting to hold the next adventure in their hands.
Today would have been Agatha Christie’s 130th birthday, which is a perfect time to celebrate the lasting legacy of her work, as well as Hercule Poirot’s long lasting appeal. And if Death on the Nile hits the way that Murder on the Orient Express did a couple years back, there’s no telling what Evil Under The Sun may strike! Ok, so there’s no guarantee that’ll be the next film, but if Kenneth Branagh continues to follow the Peter Ustinov era blueprint, we’d be willing to investigate the possibility further. Death on the Nile has a reservation with destiny, and an appointment with death, in theaters on October 23. So keep up with CinemaBlend’s ongoing coverage of Hercule Poirot’s adventures in crime fighting, and join us in wishing Agatha Christie a very happy birthday!