Film Fund-amentals: Year-End Tallies

Courtesy of Box Office Mojo, we now have the official (more or less) tally of the year’s top ten films. What does this top ten list tell us?

  1. The Dark Knight — $530.8 million (estimated budget $185 million)
  2. Iron Man — $318.3 million (estimated budget $140 million)
  3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — $317 million (estimated budget $185 million)
  4. Hancock — $227.9 million (estimated budget $150 million)
  5. WALL-E — $223.8 million (estimated budget $180 million)
  6. Kung Fu Panda — $215.4 million (estimated budget $130)
  7. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa — $174.9 million (estimated budget $150 million)
  8. Twilight — $167.3 million (estimated budget $37 million)
  9. Quantum of Solace — $164.3 million (estimated budget $225 million)
  10. Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! — $154.5 million (estimated budget $85 million)

Observations that occur to me:

  • Some comic book-based movies can make a lot of money.
  • They cost an arm, a leg and three kidneys to produce.
  • When you spend roughly $150 million to $200 million, forget about making any money at the box office. At best, you might barely break even. The rest is dependent upon TV, DVD and foreign distribution.
  • Even then, it’s a long way to go just to make the rough equivalent of $1.50 in profit.
  • Most of these films are geared toward an audience of males between the ages of 12 to 25. Yet that audience appears to have a limit to how far it can be pushed. The two most successful films on this list are generally felt to have had a broader cross-over appeal in terms of gender and age range.
  • Like the book series it is based on, Twilight was a modest production geared toward an audience of teenage girls. It is the only film on the list that makes any sense in terms of a logical profit margin.
  • So naturally, Hollywood is ready to produce more films made in the $150 to $200 million range and targeted at teenage boys.

The reason there is no business like show business is simply because you can’t run a business this way. You couldn’t even run a casino this way. Experience strongly suggests that something is about to go bust in the business and a new financial model is needed.

— Dennis Toth