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IT'S A RICH MAN'S WORLD

         

For Hicksflicks.com, Aug. 23, 2013

This is not a news flash, of course, but movie budgets are ridiculous. Should it really take $100 million to $200 million to make a movie? CGI or no CGI, that's just obscene.

Back in the day, when I was reviewing movies in the 1970s, '80s and '90s, a $20 million or $30 million, and eventually a $50 million movie budget, were considered astronomical. Now, those numbers apply to low-budget films.

To illustrate just how silly it's gotten, let's take what many consider the biggest flop of 2013 … so far, anyway … Disney's "The Lone Ranger" and compare it to the biggest hit of the year … so far … another Disney flick, "Iron Man 3."

"The Lone Ranger" was expected to have a big opening. Nowhere near "Iron Man 3's" $174 million opening weekend, mind you, but maybe $50 million or $60 million.

Instead, "The Lone Ranger" pulled in a paltry $29 million. (I know; I want to slap myself for calling $29 million "paltry.")

To date, "The Lone Ranger" has earned $88 million at the North American box office. "Iron Man 3" has earned $408 million.

Now let's look at the two films' budgets: "The Lone Ranger" is estimated to have cost $215 million to make. And "Iron Man 3" was budgeted at $200 million.

In order for a movie to start earning a profit, it must take in 2 to 2-1/2 times its budget. "Iron Man 3" has squeaked by, but, obviously, "The Lone Ranger" has not.

However, we haven't looked at the films' earnings worldwide.

Overseas, "The Lone Ranger" has taken in $130 million. But with a total of $217 million, there's no way it will go into the black, even taking into account future ancillary sales to home video, TV networks, Netflix, etc.

"Iron Man 3," however, has taken in $804 million overseas for a worldwide total of, gulp, $1.2 billion. With or without Robert Downey Jr., "Iron Man 4" is a sure thing.

Those films represent the box-office extremes, but there's a middle ground here that begs to be explored.

Among the movies recently cited as examples of mega-box-office failures that spell Hollywood's doom are the "Men in Black" ripoff "R.I.P.D.," which cost $130 million to make and has only earned $59 million worldwide, and "White House Down," budgeted at $150 million and earning $131 million worldwide.

Two other "flops" that have been cited in stories floating around the internet are "After Earth," the sci-fi thriller starring Will Smith, and the robots vs. monsters epic "Pacific Rim.

OK, no argument about "R.I.P.D." and "White House Down"; they flopped. But "After Earth" and "Pacific Rim"? Both have earned so much money overseas that there's no way they should be pulled into the circle of big-budget blunders.

"After Earth" opened with $27 million and has so far taken in $60 million domestically against a budget of $130 million. But worldwide it has earned $183 million, for a total of $243 million. When its ancillary sales are factored in, it may not be a huge moneymaker, but it will also be far from a flop.

"Pacific Rim" opened with $37 million against a $190 million budget and has so far taken in $98 million domestically. But overseas it has earned $286 million! That's a total of $385 million. As its earnings are still mounting up, it will also go into the profit column, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a sequel in a couple of years.

Besides "The Lone Ranger," "R.I.P.D." and "White House Down," there are probably several other movies that could be labeled box-office faux pas this year, but not "After Earth" and "Pacific Rim."

Note to internet pundits: A little research is all it takes to make sure your argument is sound.