Agatha Christie
Source: Getty Images

Agatha Christie’s Works Have Sold Billions of Copies

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Sep. 14 2021, Published 4:09 p.m. ET

What the Agatha Christie estate is worth is a bit of a mystery: Acorn Media purchased a 64 percent stake in the estate in 2012 but didn’t disclose the terms of the deal, according to The Hollywood Reporter. (The stake’s previous owner, Chorion, purchased it for 10 million British pounds in 1998, according to The Birmingham Post.)

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But there’s no question how successful the British detective novelist was during her 85 years—and how successful her work is now, 45 years after her death.

Christie, who was born 131 years ago on Sept. 15, is the writer behind Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, And Then There Were None, and The Mousetrap, and many other stories. In 2018, Guinness World Records named Christie as the bestselling fiction writer, noting that her 78 crime novels had sold an estimated 2 billion copies in 44 languages. And her play The Mousetrap held the record for the longest theatrical run, having entertained audiences in London’s West End since 1952.

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Who owns the rights to Agatha Christie’s books?

Agatha Christie
Source: Getty Images

The company Agatha Christie Limited (ACL), which the writer set up herself in 1955, manages the literary and media rights to her works, and James Prichard, Christie’s great-grandson, chairs and manages it. He and his family members own 36 percent of ACL. The other 64 percent is owned by RLJ Entertainment (RLJE), which was formed in 2012 after RLJ Acquisition acquired Acorn Media Group.

RLJE became an AMC Networks subsidiary in 2018, when the latter entertainment company—which operates cable channels AMC, IFC, We TV, and Sundance TV, among other properties—spent $65 million to buy the company. “As we continue to focus on owning more IP and extending our content franchises, Agatha Christie Ltd. represents a great addition to our portfolio,” AMC Networks president and CEO Josh Sapan said at the time.

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ACL has given the green light to Agatha Christie adaptations in film, television, and even video games. The 2017 film Murder on the Orient Express, for one, earned $353 million at the global box office and inspired a follow-up, Death on the Nile, which is due for release next year.

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Who’s writing Agatha Christie stories now?

ACL commissioned British mystery writer Sophie Hannah to continue the story of Hercule Poirot, one of Christie’s best-known detectives. Through HarperCollins, Hannah has released four Poirot mysteries: The Monogram Murders in 2013, Closed Casket in 2016, The Mystery of Three Quarters in 2018, and The Killings at Kingfisher Hill in 2020.

As she told Marketplace in 2020, Hannah earned the job by refusing to modernize Poirot. “I said, ‘Goodness me, no!’” she recounted. “I hated the idea of bringing him into 21st century, where he’d be able to Google all the suspects and look at their Twitter profiles. I thought that would be terrible.”

And now that Poirot lives to solve new cases, readers are revisiting the source material, Hannah revealed on the radio program. “The sales of [Christie’s] novels have massively increased since there started to be new Poirot novels because people have just been reminded that she’s still a going concern rather than something from the past,” she said.

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