The movie industry is now synonymous with astronomical mounds of cash. Movie execs aren't interested in thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, now it's all about hundreds of millions - and, if you're really lucky (or Marvel), billions.
For the longest time, I was under the impression that Avatar, as the highest grossing movie of all time, was in fact the most expensive movie ever made. At the time of its release, a lot of hubbub was made about special cameras, expensive special effects and the fact James Cameron - and man who knows no expense - was in charge. However, today we've been reminded that in fact, Avatar is not the most expensive, in fact it's not even in the top five.
Business Insider recently compiled a list of the most expensive movies made, once adjusted for inflation. In reality, it was Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End - perhaps the most forgettable Pirates movie - that really cost the most, with the the final price tag coming in at $341.8 million. In fact, it turns out even Waterworld, the 1995 Kevin Costner semi-flop, cost more to make than Avatar. Check out the top 20 of Business Insider's list below:
- 1. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) - $341.8 million
- 2. Cleopatra (1963) - $339.5 million (Original estimated budget: $44 million)
- 3. Titanic (1997) - $294.3 million
- 4. Spider-Man 3 (2007) - $293.9 million
- 5. Tangled (2010) - $281.7 million
- 6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) - $275.3 million
- 7. Waterworld (1995) - $271.3 million
- 8. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) - $263.7 million
- 9. Avatar (2009) - $261 million
- 10. The Hobbit (2012) - $257.2 million
- 11. The Dark Knight Rises (2012) - $257.2 million
- 12. John Carter (2012) - $257.2 million
- 13. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) - $256.8 million
- 14. King Kong (2005) - $250.4 million
- 15. Spider-Man 2 (2004) - $250.1 million
- 16. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008) - $246.9 million
- 17. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) - $246.1 million
- 18. Superman Returns (2009) - $244.9 million
- 19. Wild Wild West (1999) - $241.1 million
- 20. Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997) - $237.16 million
There a certainly a couple of surprises on the list, most notably that Tangled, an animated flick which are traditionally quite cheap to produce, actually cost more than Avatar, while Cleopatra - a rather severe flop from 1963, was the most expensive movie ever made until 2007.
With this in mind, let's have some more financial filmic fun.
Avatar might be the highest grossing in terms of pure, hard numbers, but once you allow for changes in inflation, the Top 10 list becomes much more interesting. In fact, big hitting modern blockbusters like The Avengers are nowhere to be seen, instead we get a run down of some classically iconic, and lucrative, titles.
- 1. Gone with the Wind (1939) - $3,301,400,000
- 2. Avatar (2009) - $2,782,300,000
- 3. Star Wars (1977) - $2,710,800,000
- 4. Titanic (1997) $2,413,800,000
- 5. The Sound of Music (1965) - $2,269,800,000
- 6. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) - $2,216,800,000
- 7. The Ten Commandments (1956) - $2,098,600,000
- 8. Doctor Zhivago (1965) - $1,988,600,000
- 9. Jaws (1975) - $1,945,100,000
- 10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) $1,746,100,000
So these movies made major bank, but to be fair a lot of them also had pretty titanic budgets - especially in the case of Titanic. So what is the most profitable movie ever made, that's the one which cost the least, but proportionately made the most?
Well there's a bit of a debate here. There are two contenders and both are very similar. Found footage founder The Blair Witch Project did make it into the Guinness Book of Records as the most profitable movie ever, however it may have been more recently overtaken by Paranormal Activity. It all comes down to which production figures you use, some place Blair ahead, others Paranormal.
However, according to BoxOfficeMojo, Paranormal Activity might just inch ahead with its cited production budget of $15,000. Considering it made $193,355,800 at the box office, this means Paranormal made $12,889 for every dollar it spent. Meanwhile, with a budget of $60,000, The Blair Witch made $248,639,099, meaning it made $4142 for every dollar. In reality, when you consider the marketing budgets for these movies, the real profit margins may have been less impressive or clear cut.
But what about the other end of the spectrum. Which movies sent execs crying in the shower and making frank phone calls to their accountants. What are cinemas' biggest flops? Well, when adjusted for inflation we see some familiar, and obviously less familiar titles:
- 1. The 13th Warrior (1999) - Estimated Loss: $97,896,514—182,838,584
- 2. 47 Ronin (2013) - Estimated Loss: $151,923,973
- 3. Cutthroat Island (1995) - Estimated Loss: $137,346,554
- 4. Mars Needs Moms (2011) - Estimated Loss: $136,816,444
- 5. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) - Estimated Loss: $96,474,415—136,431,190
- 6. The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002) - Estimated Loss: $126,461,993
- 7. The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) - Estimated Loss: $126,417,784
- 8. Sahara (2005) - Estimated Loss: $121,194,169
- 9. The Lone Ranger (2013) - Estimated Loss: $95,926,537—121,237,251
- 10. Heaven's Gate (1980) - Estimated Loss: $120,953,664
I guess these lists just go to prove, if you want to dress Johnny Depp up in some funny clothes and get him to run around, you better have some seriously deep pockets because it's going to cost you. Unfortunately, The Lone Ranger proves you're not always going to see this money come back.
What do you think? Are there any surprising titles in these lists?
Was Pirates of the Caribbean 3 worth $341.8 million?