Fanning the Flames: How Wattpad Webtoon Studios Is Reinventing the Film Adaptation Pipeline

When Wattpad Webtoon Studios was preparing to release the drama “Float” this year, author Kate Marchant asked for a little help from her fans. The Lionsgate film was based on her story, and now she presented three movie posters to her followers, asking them to pick their favorite.

“I can feel your readers shifting in their seats,” Aron Levitz, president of Wattpad Webtoon Studios, says with a laugh. “All those creative execs are going, ‘Wait a minute, people knew about it before it went out? Are you sure that’s OK?’”

More from Variety

For Levitz, the answer is a resounding yes. His company is shaking up the traditional approach to creating film and TV adaptations by putting the power in the hands of fans.

Just last month, the third movie in the “Through My Window” series, adapted from Wattpad author Ariana Godoy’s webnovels, dominated the Netflix film charts, amassing 14 million views in its first two days of release.

No surprise to the Wattpad Webtoon team, who had watched Godoy’s webnovel rack up 279 million reads. The company hopes to replicate those numbers with the upcoming “Boot Camp,” a romance film based on a story from Gina Musa. “It’s pretty simple: If we listen to what they love,” Levitz says, “they will help us find success.”

Aron Levitz
Aron Levitz

It’s a strategy the company has been following from the start. Wattpad and Webtoon are platforms that allow users to self-publish stories: Wattpad houses fan fiction and original stories, while Webtoon releases webcomics and manga. The studios merged in 2021 with the goal of creating a fan-driven entertainment powerhouse.

Take Beth Reekles. At just 15, she self-published “The Kissing Booth” on Wattpad. After the book became a viral success, she signed with Penguin Random House; her story then spawned three Netflix films starring Joey King and Jacob Elordi. With 170 million users, Wattpad Webtoon has leveraged its massive fandom into deals with Netflix, Sony and Vertigo Entertainment.

Those fans aren’t just there for the storytelling, but because of the rich community that connects them with creators. “They’re coming there to engage,” Levitz says. “They’re coming here to be part of that story.” Super-fans have even received early scripts and given notes.

Levitz says Anna Todd’s “After” series is the basis for much of the company’s approach. In 2014 she published her One Direction fan fiction, which follows a college student’s romance with Harry Styles. The story earned 544 million reads in one month.

Levitz’s team took notice. “We recognized it as something unique and different,” he recalls. “We said, ‘Look, we have not really been involved directly with our creators. … We think we can help.’”

Levitz and his team guided Todd to a publishing deal with Simon & Schuster, which led to a five-film franchise, produced by Webtoon Studios, that’s grossed nearly $170 million at the global box office.

Then again, commercial success hasn’t equated with critical acclaim. The “After” films have been lambasted for their shallow plots — and for glamorizing toxic relationships. The fourth entry, “After We Fell,” has a 0% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Never mind the haters: Todd’s fans have boosted it to a 92% score on the site’s reviews aggregator.

Wattpad Webtoon now has more than 100 projects in development or production. Among them is the long-anticipated “Lore Olympus” series. While the project has been in development limbo, Levitz says it’s moving forward with the Jim Henson Co.

Whatever the development obstacles, Levitz is committed to his fan-first outlook. “When you see a creator smile after it all comes together,” he says, “that’s the cherry on top.”

What’s next for Wattpad Webtoon?

Five of their buzziest titles are soon taking shape on screen.

“Boot Camp”

"Boot Camp"
"Boot Camp"

Author: Gina Musa
Readers: 27M
Drew Ray Tanner and Rachel Boudwin star in this body-empowerment story following a hopelessly unathletic teenager’s romance with her off-limits personal trainer.



Author: A. Rasen
Reads: 23M
Six friends get ensnared in an amusement park in this film produced alongside Vertigo Entertainment.

“Lore Olympus”

Lore Olympus
Lore Olympus

Author: Rachel Smythe
Views: 1.7B
The animated series will follow this colorful retelling of Hades and Persephone’s mythic relationship.

“Love Advice From the Great Duke of Hell”

Love Advice From the Great Duke of Hell
Love Advice From the Great Duke of Hell

Author: Unfins
Views: 160M
A lonely teenager summons a powerful demon to help him land the girl of his dreams in this film developed with Imagine Entertainment.



Author: Mike Booth
Reads: 1M
Marvel screenwriter Christopher Yost will work on the animated series adaptation of this sci-fi webnovel about a quick-witted bounty hunter in space.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.