The Maze Runner trilogy will conclude when the highly-anticipated Maze Runner: The Death Cure hits theaters on January 26. Fans have been anxious to see the franchise's final installment, which was delayed for almost a year after the film's star, Dylan O’Brien, sustained serious injuries while filming.

Now that the film is finally on its way, fans have set social media on fire in anticipation. According to Variety, Maze Runner: The Death Cure sparked nearly 600,000 new conversations in the final week of December, beating out The Incredibles 2 and Fifty Shades Freed. This is no small task, but what does it mean for the movie?

For one, it means people are excited about the film. More importantly, it speaks to the popularity of young adult (YA) films in general. Over the past decade, the Twilight and Hunger Games franchises have dominated at the box office, but as other contenders failed, many believed the genre had fizzled out. Now, given the high interest in Maze Runner: The Death Cure, it's possible the movie might breathe new life into the YA genre.

[Credit: 20th Century Fox]
[Credit: 20th Century Fox]

It might sound odd to hear that the final film in a franchise could save a whole genre, but it’s true. It’s more about the entire Maze Runner franchise, but the buzz surrounding The Death Cure is a huge part of the equation. A large reason the YA genre started to fail was because studios were spending too much on films that weren’t received well.

The Divergent series is a prime example, and to many was the last vestige of the large YA blockbusters. Lionsgate lost a lot of money on the Divergent films, and the series was concluded prematurely as a result. On the other hand, the Maze Runner franchise has proven that YA films can be made on a conservative budget and still bring in audiences.

The first Maze Runner film surprised everyone, and with a relatively small budget of $30 million, was a financial success for Fox. It wasn’t a box office juggernaut like the Twilight or Hunger Games films, but it didn't have to be. The movie grossed over $300 million worldwide. The second film, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, followed suit and made over $300 million on a $60 million budget.

To date, the franchise has grossed over $600 million on a combined $90 million production budget. In many ways, the Maze Runner franchise has redefined how the public perceives YA movies. Sure, it’s a film about teens in a dystopian future, but unlike its YA predecessors, it’s not a giant tentpole film. These are fun movies with medium budgets that prioritize appealing casts, and they don’t have to break box office records to succeed.

Sadly, the delay between The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure caused some audiences to forget about the franchise, but that will soon be remedied. If Maze Runner: The Death Cure can outperform (or match) the two previous films, it could cause other studios to look at what Fox accomplished. If we learned anything from Hollywood, it’s that success breeds competition.

It’s very likely that the success of Maze Runner: The Death Cure could lead to more YA titles being adopted by other studios. (Disney already has the high-profile adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time ready to release, which could build on Maze Runner success.) Given the social media buzz surrounding The Death Cure, it looks like the film it’s on its way to success. Reviews for the film have not been revealed yet, but if The Death Cure can garner relatively positive reviews, it should do very well.

It also helps that the movie has no competition at the box office in its first weekend. In fact, the final Maze Runner film has a full 2 weeks to rake in money before Marvel Studio’s Black Panther is released. It’s not a sure thing, but given the Maze Runner franchise's track record, The Death Cure has a great chance at success. Only time will tell if the film can refresh the YA landscape, but for now the final Maze Runner film looks like the genre’s best hope.

Make sure you catch Maze Runner: The Death Cure when it hits theaters on January 26, 2018.

(Source: Variety)