Tag Archives: movie trivia

Most Expensive Movies


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

Read related posts: Best Books for Movie Lovers
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For further reading: George Lucas’s Blockbusting edited by Alex Block and Lucy Wilson, It Books (2010)

The Movie Business Bible

“When I went to film school at USC,” writes George Lucas, ” I didn’t know anything about movies… As I learned about the craft and the business of filmmaking, I fell in love with the whole process… [The 70s were] a period of upheaval in the film business. Individuals were just starting to break out of the classic studio model, making their own artistic choices and affecting the kinds of films that were produced… Today’s upheaval is both economic and technological… digital technology is now making production far more democratic. As a result, creative power is again being pulled away from the studios and everyone is scrambling to figure out what’s going to happen next.”

To that end, George Lucas tapped Alex Ben Block, former editor of The Hollywood Reporter and Television Week, to produce a comprehensive, massive tome (994 pages) to educate the next generation of filmmakers with a wide range of fascinating cinematic trivia and statistics — salaries of stars and directors, film budgets, box office revenue, ticket prices, director profiles, quotations, discussion of evolving technology — as well as a behind-the-scenes look at 300 blockbusters from 1910 to 2005. The book features an extensive bibliography and online sources. “This is the book I wish I’d had when I was coming up in the industry,” notes Lucas. Indeed, this book belongs on the shelf of any film student or cinephile.

A book of this size is not meant to be read from cover to cover; indeed it is a sumptuous banquet for a movie lover, but it is best savored in small bites. Here is one appetizer. The costs of films has increased dramatically over the past few decades. Why does it cost so much to make a blockbuster? Where does all the money go?

Breakdown of Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Story: $20 million
Screenplay: $10 million
Producer fees: $15 million
Director: $10 million
Principal cast: $27 million (Tobey Maguire: $17 million, Kirsten Dunst: $7 million, Alfred Molina: $3 million)
Other cast: $3 million
Production shooting costs: $45 million
Visual effects: $65 million
Composer Fees: $2 million
Music Costs: $2 million
TOTAL: $200 million

The top five movie franchises (as of 2009):
1. Star Wars: $6.9 billion
2. The Lord of the Rings: $3.1 billion
3. Harry Potter: $4.6 billion
4. Jurassic Park: $2.7 billion
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: $2.6 billion

Read related posts: Why is it Called the Oscar?
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For further reading: George Lucas’s Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success edited by Alex Ben Block and Lucy Autrey Wilson, George Lucas Books (2010).

Top Ten Movies

To arrive at a meaningful list of the top ten films of all times, looking at domestic or worldwide box office grosses can be deceptive simply because of the steady rise of ticket sales over the years, not to mention the additional cost of those dorky 3D glasses. In 1975, average cost of tickets was $2.03; in 1997 the average cost was $4.59; in 2012 the average cost is $7.83. By looking only at the number of tickets sold, rather than the cost of tickets, we get a clearer picture of the real top ten films of all time:

1: Gone with the Wind (1939) with 202 million tickets sold
2: Star Wars (1977) with 178.1 million tickets sold
3: The Sound of Music (1965) with 142.4 tickets sold
4: ET (1982) with 141.9 million tickets sold 
5: The Ten Commandments (1956) with 131 million tickets sold
6: Titanic (1997) with 128.3 million tickets sold 
7: Jaws (1975) with 128.1 million tickets sold
8: Doctor Zhivago (1965) with 124.1 million tickets sold 
9: The Exorcist (1973) with 110.6 million tickets sold
10: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) with 109 million tickets sold

Moviegoers certainly love drama. It is interesting to note how many older films appear in the list — films with little or no digital effects, no promotional tie-ins, and no sequels. As one writer notes, half of the films have women as protagonists. Also note that of the two films that are in the billion dollar club for worldwide box office gross (Avatar with $2.8 billion and Titanic with $1.84 billion) only Titanic made it in the top ten list. Looking only at ticket sales, Avatar with 97.3 million tickets sold, would end up in the 14th spot.

Due to the re-release of Titanic in 3D for the Titanic’s 100th Anniversary, the film earned $190.8 million worldwide during the first week (as of April 15, 2012). The Titanic’s worldwide gross remains the second highest grossing film with $2.03 billion (up from $1.84 billion in 1997).

For further reading: Time magazine, April 16, 2012.
http://boxofficemojo.com/alltime/world/ .http://boxofficemojo.com/alltime/adjusted.htm.

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