The Mega-Budget Gamble

David Fincher's Christmas release "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button" is estimated to have been produced on a 150 to 175 million dollar budget. James Cameron's 2009 visual effects epic "Avatar" may even weigh in as high as 300 million. These ultra-high-budgets set the movies up to high expectations. Especially when you have directors with a very unique vision -- and since, with advertising costs, distribution shares and such, every film has to gross roughly 3 times its own budget to run into profits ...

Back in its day "Titanic" was quite a venture, going well over schedule and over budget. And while certainly many had faith in a good performance of the film I don't think anyone had anticipated its ultimate 1.8 billion dollar box office payday! The great gamble is that nobody knows how well a film will end up working for worldwide audiences, especially so if the movie is a hybrid of entertainment -- and a director's personal artsy vision.

In my opinion David Fincher's next has all it takes to stimulate a vast box office response: It has an incredibly original and unique story in the hands of master storytellers (Fincher and Roth), it will feature stunning, never before seen visual effects and it tells a story with grave themes and the potential to be emotionally effective. It's got a perfect release date for high revenues. And it's got Brad Pitt. But will these factors be good enough to ensure greater than 450 million dollar world-wide earnings?

Christophe has found us a great article dealing with these issues and with the studios' concerns over their own mega-budget auteur-blockbusters. It's a great read, and it's a topic quite worthy thinking about.

What do you guys think? What's your gut feeling how "Benjamin Button" will perform?

Here's the link. Thanks, Christophe!
Variety: Studios Wary Of Big Budget Auteurs


  1. My gut says it won't gross its own budget, judging by the reactions at telluride. It's not a feel good movie and a lot of people may feel disturbed by seeing an old Brad Pitt.

  2. Oh god, I honestly hope you're not into that Scientology bullshit... please don't advertise for them on your blog, and keep the ads to a minimum.

  3. WTF?!! If this Scientology crap stays up there, I'm not gonna visit this blog anymore.

  4. I think Button will make it's money back. I am not sure how it will do at the domestic box office but I think given the subject matter and Brad Pitt appeal when in a digestible film coupled with his enormous foreign appeal, I think the movie will do extraordinarily well overseas.

    I also think studios should make a Policy of Never disguising the budget of films over 80 million.

    "The Most Expensive Movie Ever Made" is not a good moniker for your film." and the expensive flops of the late 70's and early 80's should have been lesson enough to keep run away spending under wraps.

    Sometimes a High Buget is unavoidable but don't talk about it. If you find people who are talking about it? Fire them. The only people who should know the actuals are the studio execs, the producers and the Director.

    Simply having word go round that your movie's budget is higher than the cost of running a small country can really HURT your movie.

    Just pop over to IMDB and check out how many people are asking "Why does CCOBB cost so much?"

    "This is too much for a romantic movie."

    That is neither here nor there but those people and many others are going to watch the movie thinking;

    Where did the money go?

    And that is the wrong way to go into a movie.

    You want the audience to come to your movie with the least amount of baggage. Stars kind of cloud that (especially today with the 24/7 lifestyle obsessed reality clown show that is celebrity) bad press about the making of the film will cloud that.

    People should be watching your film expecting nothing more than to laugh and or cry, or to be scared or exhilarated. They should have a sense of what the movie is going to deliver and the film should deliver it better than your expectations.

    But watching the screen to see where money is spent ruins the experience of the movie.

    And that is no ones fault but Paramount's.

  5. To anonymous, what in the world are you talking about? I haven't seen anything that has to do with Scientology on this site and do not support Scientology.

    Are you just trying to be obnoxious or do you think you have a valid point to make? Issues with the new design? And how about a name for better discussions?

  6. NOT trying to be obnoxious... but there is indeed a Scientology video advertisement every time I visit the front page. Speaking of design, the white doesn't really go well together with the black surroundings. Other than that I like the change.

  7. Pretzel, thanks for checking back and pointing that out. Unfortunately I do not have control over the ads that are being shown on the blog. Whenever I check it's just random stuff, but guaranteed never anything to do with Scientology. I apologize for that and hope you can happily ignore that.

    As for the new design: Thanks for your input. If you have a good idea how I could rework the white title banner to make it work better for this new design, let me know and I'll try to get that in soon.

    And to everyone: I've added a RECENT COMMENTS sidebar ... to make it easier to keep track of the latest additions.

    Thanks for your visits and lively commenting!

    Best regards

  8. P.S. I checked what I could do about the Scientology ad and for now have switched to text-only. I'll see if I can do further adjustments, such as banning certain "company names".

  9. I dont think it will make alot of money. It looks good but thats a bunch of money it will have make to earn a profit. It will have to do just as good as THE DARK KNIGHT which I dont think will happen.

  10. i think benjamin button will perform quite well and i agree with kevin when he says that it will make its money back.

    it's a large canvas that fincher is painting on. i'm sure an epic, romantic and beautiful (in fincher's words) tale will come out of it.

    i will contribute with some bucks going to see it at least a couple of times.

    ps: what is all the fuzz about the scientology ad? it was clear that was something google had put on, not fincherfanatic. if some people were so terrified by it, why not checking the info for the webpage? there you would see that the line of command was "google... yadayada ad ...". next time, a little less fellas.

  11. button will make a ton of money, I'm sure. first of all with brad pitt and a xmas release date there will be a tidal-wave of cross-marketing splashing down on everyone. and secondly i strongly disagree with nobodoy wanting to watch pitt get old: it's probably that very detail that will draw a lot of attention: everonye wants to see if you really can't spot 'em damned vfx!!! harhar

    i'm guessing 500m worldwide.

  12. "Button" will dominate the B.O. for 10 weeks straight! Perfect flick for the season. Great start date, some good marketing in early December and decent movie-going weekends in its first 9 weeks. Then the Academy Awards will do the rest!

    Button + Pitt + Timing = Cash Cow

  13. Filmmakers / auteurs the caliber of Fincher and Cameron should be trusted. They deliver the goods. They make movies no one else can make.

    I'd rather write a check to Fincher for a gamble like Benjamin Button than the 200 million or so Michael Bay is spending on his Transformers sequel. There is a difference in how the money is spent, and it's the way it all shows up on the screen.

    Remember the days where a surge of mega budget films where made and flopped relentlessly? those days are over. Even with grosses at an all time high, the studios are nervous. Not even Spielberg and Peter Jackson can get 130M to make Tintin, that's a sign of the times.

    Personally I don't care about any of this. I care about seeing the money right up on the screen, and one of the most audacious examples of money well spent is how Fincher convinced Fox to spend 67 million in Fight Club. That still dazzles the mind, that he made that film the way he did.