“Is there any reason The Hangover II needed to cost more than twice what The Godfather did?”
After recent grumbles about the flood of superhero movies giving a very poor bang for their buck, Cord Jefferson at Good does some number crunching on what some of the greatest movies of all time would cost if they were made today, and how that compares to current box office fodder.
The best movie of all time, according to IMDB users, is the critically acclaimed The Shawshank Redemption. In 1994 it cost $25 million to produce, but even in 2010 dollars that’s only $36.2 million, almost $30 million less than the average film now. The Godfather, IMDB’s second-best movie of all time, cost $31 million in 2010 bucks. Once again, that’s much less than the average movie nowadays. In fact, save for Inception and The Dark Knight, numbers nine and 10 on the list, respectively, every single one of IMDB’s top 10 movies cost less to produce than the average current film, some by leaps and bounds. Pulp Fiction’s budget was $11.6 million when adjusted for inflation, and Schindler’s List, a hugely important film, only cost $37 million.
These numbers represent a fraction of the costs of hit movies from 2010-11. While there will always be expensive, SFX-driven blockbusters (the top earning movie of the year so far is Transformers 3, which had a production budget of $195M), it seems that the studios can’t even churn out a character-driven drama or comedy for less than those top two movies of all time. The Hangover II cost $80M. The Adjustment Bureau cost $50M. The horrible The Dilemma cost an eye-popping $70M (for what?). Add to these figures the marketing costs (which for big movies usually constitutes a sum at least equal to the production budget, if not higher), and that means that studios are routinely pumping out movies that won’t make their nut until they put the $100M box office mark a long way behind them.
These expensive movies translate directly into high ticket prices for moviegoers, and a studio system that’s reluctant to punt even relatively modest budgets (less than $20M) on original ideas. The only thing that will change this costly culture is concerted action on the part of audiences, as Jefferson suggests.
maybe it’s best in the long run for everyone to agree to stop going to movies in the theater. Let’s all stay home, watch Netflix and Hulu, and thus help whittle away at the film companies’ coffers more than people already have. When the studios can no longer pay to make every film a $70 million undertaking, perhaps then they’ll get back to doing what real filmmakers have been doing for as long as cinema has existed: Making more with less. When that happens, not only will we be able to afford the ticket, we’ll actually want to see the movie.