Before production began for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn told the press that the budgets for the new film and its following two films will have a budget between $175 M and $200 M. These budgets take into account creative talent costs (casting), direct production costs (set building, etc.), post-production costs (visual effects labor), and other costs (insurance, catering, etc.).
It may seem like a lot of money for those not knowledgable of movie-making costs, but these numbers are typical for the average blockbuster film. To put it into perspective, the first Marvel Avengers film cost $220 M to make.
The official costs for making movies are rarely released to the public, so we wanted to see if The Force Awakens is indeed meeting, exceeding, or is under the quoted budget that Horn gave over a year ago. The best indication of that so far would be the behind-the-scenes production reel shown at Comic-Con this year.
After watching the reel, we have a general idea of what went into making the first film of the new trilogy. Here’s our breakdown* (based off previous Star Wars film cost research) –
- Film licenses (Abu Dhabi, Iceland, Scotland, London) = $17,000,000
- Real sets (X-Wings, Millenium Falcon) = $26,000,000
- Real costumes (Chewbacca, R2-D2, C3-P0) = $18,000,000
- Casting (namely the legacy cast: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher) = $40,000,000
- Direct-production (cameras including IMAX and 35 mm, lighting, post-prod, catering) = $25,000,000
- Creatives (director Abrams, producer Kennedy, writer Kasdan) = $30,000,000
- Music (composer Williams, soundstage rental, orchestra) = $22,000,000
- Other (insurance, marketing and promotion) = $23,000,000
TOTAL COSTS = $201,000,000
*only estimates and do not reflect the actual production’s costs. All amounts listed are USD.
Based on our own calculations, we are pretty sure that the film went slightly over budget. According to Bruce Nash of the recognized movie budgeting site The Numbers, he thinks our amount is justified for one major reason: because it’s Star Wars.
“As the first film in a franchise, and one that many actors would kill to be a part of, I suspect they aren’t paying the actors, director, etc., a significant amount up front,” Nash says.
While being over budget might not sit well with Disney, they are confident in betting that money will be returned in full (and in excess) when the film releases in December. That bet really sits on us moviegoers who most likely pay to see the Episode 7.
May the Force be with those opening weekend moviegoers!