High-Budget vs Low-Budget: Who’s More Successful in 2018 so Far?
Looking at the numbers to see if spending over one hundred million dollars is worth it in the end.
It’s difficult to make a movie— there’s no question. From the beginning of the creative process to the distribution of the finished product in theaters, the whole industry can be an eternal black hole of pandemonium. You know what the worst part is? That the possibility of not even having a payoff is incredibly high.
Large studios dominate the field; we know the names: Universal, Time Warner, Paramount, Disney etc. Many of the small companies, such as Focus, A-24 and other art house studios, are rooted into the corporate structures of these super powers. When pitching a film, your ideal situation is being backed by a studio. Think about it… it gives your idea prestige, a strong network, and money.
I’m a fan of indie films. They’re usually the ones that make me sympathize the most because of their realism. However, the independent filmmaking process is treacherous. Financiers are crucial to their development, and then, don’t even get me started on looking for distributors. In the end, a lot of independent movies are branded by a large studio because: a) it caught their attention, and b) the crew needs the exposure.
“We’ve gotten to a point where it costs so much money to make a movie that directors and filmmakers feel they have to make sure that everybody gets it. And that’s an unfortunate development, I think, in a lot of narratives floating around in the film industry.” – Jeff Nichols
However, which movies are better? Economically: The ones with an exaggerated budget for a surplus of dazing visual effects? Or the movies made from recycled equipment and studio scraps?
It can go either way because in the end if a studio film has a successful marketing plan along with good strategic targeting program, then it will probably be a major success. It’s all seasonal.
The end of 2017 and into 2018, brought this matter into focus as many low-budget films have surprised audiences and reigned in a lot of dough at the domestic office. Not just that though, it’s also been a year where films with a large fanbase have bombed and disappointed both viewers and artists.
Let’s take a look at the numbers (before fees are taken out, and only comparing production costs, theater gross and domestic box office. Most of the big-budget films do a large majority of biz in other countries):
Ultra high-budget films:
Budget: $200 million
DBO: $675 million
Profit: $475.9 million
Ready Player One
Budget: $175 million
DBO: $118 million
Loss: $56.3 million
Pacific Rim Uprising
Budget: $150 million
DBO: $58 million
Loss: $91.9 million
Budget: $69 million
DBO: $46.5 million
Loss: $22.5 million
Now, for the relatively low-budget films:
Budget: $17 million
DBO: $39 million
Profit: $22.6 million
The Shape of Water
Budget: $19.5 million
DBO $63 million
Profit: $44.3 million
A Quiet Place
Budget: $17 million
DBO: $108 million
Profit: $91 million
Decide for yourself, and yes, these numbers are always changing. Ready Player One and Red Sparrow are still in theaters, so their hopes of catching up aren’t completely gone… right? I’m just trying to be optimistic, but why are these films having a problem with American audiences?
A Quiet Place came out at the beginning of April, around a week after the release of the Spielberg film. However, A Quiet Place only tails the ultra high-budget film by $10 million dollars. There’s no excuse.
Let’s face it, just because a film pours its pockets out onto its visual effects crew doesn’t mean that it will be able to break-even and bring that money back. Although, the visuals tend to be impressive, but it’s not enough to distract audiences from a lacking story or theme. This is a trend that has been projected over and over again, but fewer films are being made by large studios. Why? Well, because they continue to invest large sums of money into fewer projects, which minimizes risk.
Black Panther is an outlier (and a Marvel film, which hasn’t failed yet). Congratulations to all the hard work put into that movie. It’s the only strand of successful ultra high-budget films that have sprouted from this pandemic. Unfortunately, its peers have continued to be letdowns. Even book adaptations, such as Red Sparrow with the help of Jennifer Lawrence, can’t even break through the system, and they have a precedented fanbase!
So, what is going on?
The fact is that films with a lower-budget tend to hit a higher level of quality. Why? Since they don’t have a lot of money to spare, the film producers can’t let a penny go to waste. This leads to a focus on plot and thematic elements that create a film that audiences can relate to. Remember the Academy Award winning 2017 darling, Moonlight? It had a budget lower than $4 million dollars and grossed around $60 million.
Also, horror movies are a safe pick for profit because people will always pay to watch one in the theatre, and their budget is always low. If a book adaptation isn’t an accurate depiction of its predecessor novel, then fans will rip it to shreds. There comes a time when the industry needs to stop speculating and ask the question: Is this even worth $100 million or more?
But, hey, I’m just pointing out the numbers…