Among the many issues going on with Hollywood productions is the topic of budgets. This topic has been on the table for quite some time as bigger films have led budgets going higher and higher.
It used to be justified that studios would spend more money to make more money. How else would one justify the $400 million budget for “Avengers: Endgame” if Disney wasn’t sure it would make all that money back by making well over $2 billion worldwide?
But Hollywood productions are greatly shifting now. Studios have started favoring streaming-exclusive debuts for television series and movies. The budgets for these productions are also starting to rise, as with Amazon’s Lord of the Rings prequel series which will cost well over $500 million to make for one season, making it one of the most expensive television productions ever. Whether these heavy investments will pay off over time remains to be seen.
As for theatrical productions, a problem with budgets still remains for films that have failed to turn an expected profit. While “Avengers: Endgame” made a massive profit at the box office, consider how the following Marvel Studios film of “Black Widow” favored. The film had completed production in early 2020 but had its theatrical release date pushed back to 2021.
The cost was $200 million to make the film, which is pretty par for the course when it comes to most movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Parts of the film were also filmed in Budapest amid its worldwide production. Unfortunately, the box office gross for the film was barely $400 million, making for a rather disappointing return.
Sure, one might blame the Covid-19 pandemic for the diminishing box office but this has been a problem even before the pandemic. Numerous films with budgets well over $100 million have failed to make a profit, even with the biggest intellectual properties attached to them. Just look at the “Justice League” movie, a film which featured such box office draws of Superman and Batman among the ensemble of superheroes.
The box office was $657 million. That might sound good until you consider that the film itself cost $300 million, which included expensive reshoots. If you lump Zack Snyder’s cut of the film that debuted in 2021, you can add another $75 million on top of that.
Remember, the budget mentioned here is only for the production of the film and doesn’t include marketing, which can easily be just as expensive if not moreso. A perfect example of this is “The Angry Birds Movie”, which cost €75 million to make but €100 million to market and distribute.
So what will this mean for the future of film production? Will we start seeing scaled back budgets? It’s possible but that may not mean we’ll see a reduction in how good movies look and feel. It may just mean that filmmakers and studios will have to get a bit more creative.
Patrice Vermette was the production designer on the recent hit movie “Dune”. He spoke about how director Denis Villeneuve favored more practical than green-screen effects. “We didn’t do a lot of set extensions and visual effects. Sets were built. They were huge. It felt like old Hollywood. Going to Budapest allowed us to do that. It would have been challenging in other places, financially.”
Part of keeping film budgets more sensible without sacrificing quality may ultimately come down to how much support they can get from certain places to film. Canada, of course, has been a haven for cheaper productions with the money placed behind various productions. It’s why even more international productions like the live-action Gundam TV special G Savior, intended only to be shown on Japanese television, was entirely shot in Canada and later to be dubbed over in Japanese.
But Hungary certainly has plenty of opportunities to keep budgets low. Origo Film Studio has certainly been an integral part of film production in Hungary, in addition to the support offered by Mid Atlantic Films for the aforementioned “Black Widow”. Origo’s work includes shooting for “Poor Things” by Yorgos Lanthimos, starring Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe and Mark Ruffalo. Mid Atlantic Films is also worth noting for their most recent productions of shooting the “Moon Knight” TV series based on the Marvel Comics character and streaming on Disney+.
Where budgets will ultimately fall depends on how well streaming numbers will justify the cost. While it was fairly easy to calculate costs for theatrical films based on box office returns, it’s much harder to track the success of films and television produced for streaming services. The tracking of the watch data is especially hard when considering it’s up to the studios to report since they are the central distributors. This may prove to be more interesting with how studios go about developing new material as they won’t have to worry about distribution costs but will have to keep an eye on their audience and their subscription profits.
At any rate, movies certainly need to be kept more practical and lower on budgets if they hope to make bank in this new age of streaming. Hungary may just be at the forefront of such productions.