what's with huge production budgets?

Discussion in 'TV & Media' started by Trubinator, Aug 7, 2008.

  1. ThunderAeroI

    ThunderAeroI Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 28, 2002
    Perpetually being chased by airplanes
    The one comment i can make about the cost of something like CGI, or light bulbs is this:

    I work at an airport which we spend an insane amount of money on bulbs, lights, and general stuff. The problem is supply and demand, that and your trapped so they know they got you.

    THink of it this way. The FAA makes regulations that say a light bulb must be like so. In order to make the light bulb to those specifications, it gets expensive because no one else buys light bulbs like it. Thus it costs alot.

    and a $50.00 light bulb is 'cheap'. We have lights that cost a hell of a lot more than that.
  2. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

    Oct 8, 2005
    Los Angeles, California
    Filmmaking is an expensive proposition. For these multi-million dollar films, you're looking at shooting schedules of 4-6 months (or more). For every one of those days, you have to cater enough food to feed your entire cast and crew. For a crew on a big budget production, you're looking at upwards of 250 people (or more). Not to mention the cast, both your stars (which do not come cheap--for A-List actors, many of whom are in these big budget films, you can be looking at 20 million dollars or more for their talents alone) and day-players (which, on big pictures, could still be someone famous enough to earn far beyond SAG-minimum). These films probably have multiple cameras (when filming action, you could be talking 15 of them) which cost thousands upon thousands to rent a day (remember to include the costs of lenses and especially film stock in these figures as well). You want to bring trucks or cars in for an action scene? Those have to be purchased or rented. And if they're going to be destroyed in the script you either have to have a number of exact copies available, or you better spend hours (or days) preparing (read: time spent paying actors to stand around) and be covering it from a lot of different angles (multiple cameras again).

    And that's only production (which, often, baloons past schedules and budgets, which can't account for the random occurances of a film set). Pre-production budgets are often massive for these special effects-laden films as well. And it's no surprise if you have to hire massive art departments, etc. (or small ones--but then you have to give them a lot more time and end up spending money anyway). And, with dozens of writers on these assembly line projects (or just a couple of A-listers who earn millions), you're not saving any money there, either.

    And then there's post-production. CGI ain't cheap, especially if you want it fast (and usually you do, in order to meet impending release dates that you've advertised endlessly--more financial burden--in order to hype up your film) and in the massive quantities intended blockbusters require.

    And this doesn't even include the costs that studios don't advertise (huge advertising budgets--The Dark Knight probably had an advertising budget in the tens of millions, from the looks of it), striking thousands of prints (film prints cost thousands...multiply that by several thousand and you're not skimping), and yielding a good portion of your box office gross to theaters (notice they always report grosses--never profits).

    But why do studios keep making these films? Because we keep going to them. We go to them in huge quantities. We go to them more than once. And we buy them on DVD. More often than not, they get us to buy them on DVD more than once. And that doesn't include the profits incurred from the toys, the merchandies, the fast food restaurant promotions, etc. that these films also bring with them. If you think the millions that the latest Batman movie has made in theatres is something, those numbers probably don't hold a candle to action figure sales.

    Have budgets gotten a little out of control? Most definitely. The things Hollywood productions spend money on are often asinine. But, considering the massive profits that (more often than not) come at the end of the line, can you really blame studio executives (who fund films to make money...these people couldn't give a damn about cinema as an art--unless they can find a way to sell it) for not giving a damn about spending more than they should here and there considering the windfall that comes afterwards?
  3. Warp Coil

    Warp Coil Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Mar 15, 2001
    MD, USA
    I imagine part of the reason why budgets are inflating is that costs are rising. It costs more to pay the cast and crew. It costs more to provide food to feed the cast and crew. It costs more to provide transportation for the cast and crew.

    Granted, budgets have gotten a little out of control. I don't think it would hurt for Hollywood to try and contain their budgets on some of their projects. Quantity doesn't always translate into quality. Anyone remember "Waterworld", which at the time set a record for how much it cost to make, and yet was a huge bomb. I look at projects like "Cloverfield" or see how great movies can be done with a limited budget.
  4. CaptJimboJones

    CaptJimboJones Vice Admiral Admiral

    Feb 15, 2002
    Keep in mind, also, that blockbuster-type movie budgets often include years worth of development, including the cost of options for scripts, directors, actors, etc., that may have no bearing on the movie that was ultimate produced. I believe this was a large part of the price tag of Superman Returns.
  5. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

    Oct 8, 2005
    Los Angeles, California
    From what I've read, Superman Returns had to incur all of the money that had been spent on pay or play deals for the aborted Tim Burton/Nicholas Cage version in the mid-1990s that Kevin Smith wrote a draft for (his re-telling of the whole affair is classic).

    Reminds me of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which had to incur the costs of Star Trek: Phase II into its budget (which is one of the reasons it grew so large compared to the other Trek features).
  6. Mr Light

    Mr Light Admiral Admiral

    Dec 7, 1999
    Meanwhile, the budget of each Star Wars Prequel was about $115 million, which is nothing but CGI. But I guess that's cause Lucas owns ILM and gets the inside ticket ;)
  7. Arrqh

    Arrqh Vice Admiral Admiral

    Feb 27, 2004
    As an aside, I think you left out the CG artists :p
  8. Michael Chris

    Michael Chris Admiral Admiral

    May 11, 2001
    The 'Querq, NM
    Since the example used in this thread is T4 I have to say I am very thankful for the large budget. The reason they came to my home state of New Mexico was because of their large budget. NM apparently has better incentives than Budapest. Plus we got the whole "post-apocalyptic" look down cold.
  9. Holdfast

    Holdfast Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Feb 19, 2000
    17 Cherry Tree Lane
    I was just watching some of the docus for both the OT and the PT, and was amazed at how LOW the budgets were, esp. considering how effects-heavy (and even location-heavy) some of them are.

    I think it's a matter of wanting to exert cost-control. Lucas borrowed money to make at least some of his films, so controlling costs was very important. It's about a sense of ownership. Everything's under one roof (or extended corporate "family" at least) too, so there's cost-saving there too.

    But with a studio, they're just going to look at the bottom line, after all costs are deducted. As long as enough of the superbig budget films make a net profit, they'll keep greenlighting them even if they could potentially make a bigger profit by being tighter with the budgets.
  10. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Dec 27, 2006
    the real world
    Forensic accounting isn't my field. But it does seem that in some fashion or other money in the budget doesn't actually move on to other hands. I suppose simple kickbacks are not heard of but by all reports lawyers and accountants are paid huge amounts of money to claim that movies lose money. Inflating the budget seems to be a way to do this. It appears instead that in fact most movies make money eventually. But taking a year or two means not making a lot of money.

    Also, from CaptJimboJones
    This too is true.

    I would add that marketing costs can be quite considerable. Wide releases can cost quite a bit of money just making that many prints! Merchandising income for some releases is quite high, though. However these figures are pretty closely guarded it seems.

    In short it seems that reported budget is not even a very accurate guide to the physical quality of a film (sets, costumes, FX) even though that is something that can usually be bought.
  11. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

    Oct 8, 2005
    Los Angeles, California
    As per inflating a film's budget, it doesn't pertain to big budget pictures, but Peter Briskand's book Down and Dirty Pictures offers a number of anecdotes about how the executives running the "independent" film sector (focusing on the Weinstein brothers tenure at Mirimax, but also looking at New Line Cinema and other similiar companies) shifts costs of one movie over to others in order to make the books look as if everything has yet to turn a profit.

    After that, they use their massive staff of lawyers to pile up litigation claiming otherwise for years in order to make the financial cost of directors, producers, actors, writers, etc. suing for residuals to be so large that it is no longer worth it in time and finances to try and get the money owed.
  12. Daedalus12

    Daedalus12 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Oct 9, 2002
    Transatlantic Flights
    AFAIK the most expensive movie ever made was War and Peace (1968). It had an estimated expense of $700 million (2006 dollars).
  13. Small White Car

    Small White Car Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Oct 3, 2001
    Washington D.C.
    This stuff is complicated. It costs money.

    The simplest little cheesy shoots I do run about $10,000 per day, and I work really hard to cut enough corners to keep it to that.

    And that's usually working with less than 20 people. These Hollywood films are on a much bigger scale and the work lasts 2-3 years.
  14. The Borgified Corpse

    The Borgified Corpse Admiral Admiral

    Jun 4, 2000
    Ouch! Forgotten already? You were just down ther
    In Roger Corman's autobiography, he talks a little bit about the few big studio films he made. He says that, in many cases, the amount of labor costs attributed to a film would have absolutely no bearing on reality. For example, he would need, say, 3 Teamsters to move some lumber from one end of the studio lot to the other. Then, the studio employs, say, 20 Teamsters on its lot full time. 15 of them are occupied working on other movies. That leaves 5 available to move the lumber. Only 3 are needed for the job but the studio charges the time of all 5 of them to Corman's movie. That way, they inflate the budget of the movie and make it look like all of their full time Teamsters are occupied.
  15. Mr Light

    Mr Light Admiral Admiral

    Dec 7, 1999
    This is interesting stuff: here's 2006's top ten:
    1. Pirates 2: 1,066 mil gross! - 225 mil budget = 841 mil "profit" (wow!)
    2. Da Vinci Code: 758 - 125: 633
    3. Ice Age 2: 652 - 80: 572
    4. Casino Royale: 594 - 102: 492
    5. Night Museum: 574 - 110: 464
    6. Cars: 462 - 120: 342
    7. X-Men 3: 459 - 210: 249
    8. Mission Impossible 3: 398 - 150: 248
    9. Superman Returns: 391 - 270: 121 (ouch! and it's the most expensive movie of the year)
    10. Happy Feet: 384 - 100: 284

    And 2005:
    1. Harry Potter 4: 896 - 150: 746
    2. Revenge Sith: 850 - 113: 737 (see? only 113 budget!)
    3. Narnia: 745 - 180: 565
    4. War Worlds: 592 - 132: 460
    5. King Kong: 550 - 207: 343 (and this was considered a "flop"?)
    9. Batman Begins: 372 - 135: 237 (how far we've come, hunh?)

    And 2003:
    1. Return King: 1,119 gross!!! only 94 mil budget!!!: 1,025 mil profit!!!
    2. Finding Nemo: 865 - 94: 771
    3. Matrix Reloaded: 739 - 150: 589
    4. Pirates Caribb: 654 - 140: 514
    5. Bruce Almighty: 485 - 80: 405
    6. Last Samurai: 457 - 140: 317
    7. Terminator 3: 433 - 200: 233 (why did this cost so much?!)
    8. Matrix Revolutions: 425 - 110: 315
    9. X-Men 2: 408 - 110: 298
    10. Bad Boys 2: 273 - 130: 143

    And 1999 my favorite movie year:
    1. Phantom Menace: 924 - 115: 809
    2. Sixth Sense: 673 - 55: 618
    3. Toy Story 2: 485 - 90: 395
    4. Matrix: 460 - 63: 397 (only 63 mil budget?! wow)
    5. Tarzan: 448 - 150: 298 (most expensive movie of the year is a cartoon?)
    6. Mummy: 416 - 80: 336 (only 80 mil budget?!)
    8. World Not Enough: 362 - 135: 227
    10. Austin Powers 2: 312 - 33: 279
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2008
  16. DWF

    DWF Admiral Admiral

    May 19, 2001
    Columbus, Ohio
    You're not jsut talking about the cost of the software or technology but the people behind it as well, most CGI jobs are done by the higest bidder since they know how little time there is to get a movie ready for the theaters.
  17. dragunzng

    dragunzng Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 10, 2003
    Ortigas, Philippines
    My thoughts exactly, you look at Hellboy 2, and it looks like it must have a massive budget, but it cost under 90 million, you look at Cloverfield and think it must have cost easily over 100 million dollars, but it cost 25 million.

    Now let's look at that crappy Zohan movie, why hello thar 90 MILLION DOLLAR BUDGET...

  18. John Picard

    John Picard Vice Admiral Admiral

    I lumped them in with programmers. Sorry, they should be acknowledged separately. :(
  19. payndz201

    payndz201 Commodore Commodore

    May 30, 2001
    Great Britain
    To some degree, costs are probably inflated, though. There was a fairly infamous example a few years back - the Tomb Raider movie, where IIRC because of a lawsuit the production accounts were brought into public view, so inevitably they were picked apart by those interested in such things.

    Long story short: Paramount's "$94 million" budget, thanks to various international tax breaks, merchandising deals and the like, was actually more like $7 million. Read more here. Of course, from a studio accounting point of view, that $94 million was almost certainly the 'official' figure when it came to dishing out net, rather than gross, profits.
  20. nx1701g

    nx1701g Admiral Admiral

    Jun 26, 2001
    2001 - 2016
    I'd say that the larger budgets are a combination of factors;

    1.) The value of money is diminishing as things are becoming more costly.
    2.) Average Joe wants to see big explosions and cool special effects.

    The bad thing is that the interpretations of profitability with film are changing from what they were previously. According to an article a few months ago about the possibility of an Incredible Hulk sequel, film studios now want to see at least a 25% increase over the break even point before they consider a film a profit. If Terminator's budget (I have seen several different figures) it would have to make a minimum of 250 million to be considered a success.