In a documentary titled, Tales from the Scripts, successful novelist and screenwriter William Goldman laments the terrifying costs of making films today. “When Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was made in 1969,” he explains, “it was made for about $4.8 million. If that movie were made today… it would cost $150 million — if you’re lucky.” The film went on to make more than $102 million — about $600 million in today’s dollars.
In the 1970’s a blockbuster film was considered expensive if production costs exceeded $50 million. By the 1980’s, that number climbed to $100 million, and ten years later production costs reached $150 million. Today blockbuster films, also known as tentpole films (a wide-release film that is expected to be very successful and promote a wide range of products, like toys, video games, books, music, related films, etc) generally exceed $200 million, slowly driving up the cost of a movie ticket. Consider that in the 1970s the average movie ticket cost $1.50; fast forward 40 years and the cost has soared to $8.16.
Below is the list of the ten most expensive films (name of film, followed by release date, and production costs). Not surprisingly, most of the films in the list are based on comic books or popular novels. Whether it is worthwhile to spend that kind of money on making a particular film is a judgment that is best left to moviegoers and critics since, in many cases, movie studio executives are clueless or greedy (or both).
1. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007): $300 million
2. Tangled (2010): $260 million
3. Spider-Man 3 (2007): $258 million
4. John Carter (2012): $250 million
5. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009): $250 million
6. Avatar (2009): $237 million
7. The Dark Knight Rises (2012): $230 million
8. The Lone Ranger (2013): $225 million
9. Man of Steel (2013): $225 million
10. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008): $225 million
For further reading: George Lucas’s Blockbusting edited by Alex Block and Lucy Wilson, It Books (2010)