Posted on Friday, October 4th, 2013 by Germain Lussier
Peter Jackson‘s Lord of the Rings series was three films, shot on film, each well over two hours long, with groundbreaking special effects. They were nominated for 30 Oscars, won 17 and grossed about $3 billion worldwide. That’s a lot of money, which is why Warner Bros. wanted Jackson to return to the world with The Hobbit.
The Hobbit will also be three films. They’re shot digitally, in 48FPS 3D, and also feature incredible special effects and will likely all end up over two hours each. The first film, An Unexpected Journey, got three Oscar nominations and the second film, The Desolation of Smaug, will be out on December. The first film grossed over $1 billion worldwide, making it the second most successful film of the franchise.
Lots of numbers there, but there is one set of numbers that aren’t so close. The original trilogy reportedly cost $281 million to make. The Hobbit trilogy has cost $561 million… so far. That’s not including post-production on the third film or reshoots this past summer to extend the series into a trilogy.
Variety reported these numbers, which were revealed in a financial document from New Zealand, where Jackson is making the films.
The cost includes 266 days of principal photography and a “significant expense” on the upgrade to 3D and 48 FPS, the first film of its kind to do so. That part is particularly interesting because digital photography is regularly championed for its lower cost. Apparently that doesn’t count when you’re innovating in the field. There’s also the simple fact of cost increases over time — Jackson began filming The Fellowship of the Ring in 1999, at a point when everything cost less.
And while the massive budgets for these movies might sound excessive, the first movie alone more than covered the cost. (Maybe not when you factor in marketing, but it’s surely close.) And there’re still two more movies to come. The Hobbit will turn a profit. So even if The Hobbit films don’t reach the critical heights of the original trilogy, Jackson’s new movies could still be one of the best decisions Warner Bros. has ever made.
What’s that phrase? “You’ve got to spend money to make money?”