The rights to City of Ember, the first of the Book of Ember series, were bought in October 2004 by the Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, partners at a production company called Playtone. Production lasted from summer to fall of 2007. The movie was directed by Gil Kenan and starred Saoirse Ronan, Harry Treadaway, and Bill Murray. City of Ember was released on October 10, 2008, and received a 53% score on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie was made with a production budget of $55 million and made only $17 million worldwide ($7 million US). While the sequel, The People of Sparks, was optioned at the time of release, the performance of the first film makes the sequel extremely unlikely.
The production of I am Number Four, the first of the Lorien Legacies series, began promisingly. DreamWorks bid over J.J. Abrams to purchase the rights in June 2009, with Michael Bay (known for movies that make money, regardless of critical response) set to produce and possibly direct. However, Bay decided to direct Transformers: Dark of the Moon, so D. J. Caruso was brought on to direct, with Alex Pettyfer cast as Number Four. Production started on May 17, 2010, and lasted throughout the summer. I am Number Four premiered on February 18, 2011, with a budget of $60 million. The movie received a low 33% score on Rotten Tomatoes. I am Number Four went on to make $149.9 million at the worldwide box office ($55 million US). While there were hopes for the movie series to become a franchise, eventually making a movie adaptation of all six books, nevertheless the sequel was shelved following the box office performance of I am Number Four.
Cassandra Clare, the author of the Mortal Instruments series, had trouble initially because film companies wanted her to change the protagonist from female to a male lead, but she refused. Finally, in a coproduction between German company Constantin Film Produktion GmbH and Canadian company Don Carmody productions and Unique Pictures, production started in 2012 with Harald Zwart directing. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was released on August 21, 2013, and had a budget of $60 million. Rotten Tomatoes gave a very low 12% score. The movie grossed $90.6 million worldwide ($31 million US). Initially, in May 2013, it was announced the sequel to City of Bones, City of Ashes, would begin production in September 2013. After City of Bones was released, however, the movie was initially shelved, and then in 2014, there were rumors of the sequel being announced. Finally, the German company Constantin announced on October 12, 2014, that Mortal Instruments would return as TV series. Shadowhunters (also called Shadowhunters: the Mortal Instruments) premiered on January 12, 2016, on the Freeform cable network. After a 13 episode first season, the show was renewed for a 20 episode second season, which premiered on January 2, 2017. While the continuation the novels into a TV show will hopefully satisfy fans, this means that the movie series will remain unfinished.
All three movie series were started with high hopes for sequels, hoping to adapt all of the stories in the book series. However, disappointing critical and box office reception only allowed the first of each to be adapted, with the exception of the Mortal Instruments series, which lives on in a TV series instead of a series of movies. In the end, fans of each of these unfinished film series are left to wonder what might have been.