Movies By Numbers

The Summer movie season kicks off this Friday with the release of Marvel’s The Avengers, along with our latest installment of FilmCast (somewhat predictably).  From May 4th until early August, you can see explosions and CG galore at your local multiplex.  While the Summer movie season has always been the bread and butter of the movie business, it is also a time when large amounts of cash are sunken into movies which are facing off against each other on a weekly basis.  Franchises can be either made or broken during these intense few months.  When they are broken or fail to launch, ludicrous amounts of money can be lost.

Why the hell do movies cost so much?  Granted, none of the budgets from the majority of upcoming films have been made public, but we all know these big extravaganzas cost around $200 million.  It is style over substance every Summer, and while some of my site cohorts complain how I don’t give many movies a chance, frankly, I’m looking for more than slow-motion running and buildings collapsing in what I choose to watch.

A common flaw in Hollywood appears to be the belief that cost equals quality.  I don’t believe this for a second.  If that were the case, why did almost every Adam Sandler movie of the last ten years cost no less than $75 million?  Perhaps I’m even more baffled by how many people actually went to see those movies, but I digress.  Plenty of comedies, in particular, cost far less to produce and yield huge returns for the studios.  Bridesmaids cost just over $30 million to make and ended up making over $280 million worldwide.  Knocked Up cost nearly as little, and took in almost $220 million worldwide.  What about The Hangover?  $35 million to make, earned $467 million worldwide.  These three examples were a massive return on investment for their respective studios, and the movies have held up for the audiences as well.  Personally, I’ve watched Bridesmaids four times in the last month because it is hysterical.  Compare that to the $82 million budget of a scab like Sucker Punch where one viewing was more than enough.  Make sense?

The problem with a successful film is it usually gets turned into a franchise, which means a bloated budget.  Take The Hangover Part II.  That film cost $80 million, and it’s basically the same movie set in a different location.  Sure, it made loads of money, but couldn’t it have cost a little less?  Directors can run into this problem as well.  Following the success of Knocked Up, Judd Apatow went on to make Funny People, which cost $75 million and made less than that worldwide.  Is it that lightning never strikes the same place twice?  Possibly, but I’d like to think this was also Adam Sandler’s fault.

Pardon the pun, but my money says make quality films with a reasonable budget and people will go see them and/or buy them.  That’s all we really want anyway.  Why sink $250 million into John Carter?  Give the underdog some money and let them crank out something people will want to watch for years to come.  All that ends up costing you is use of your common sense.

If you’re curious about some of my thoughts on the 2007 sequel boom, check out my original incarnation of Rants over here!