Opinion: Wonder Woman’s budget (And everyone elses)

Warner Brother’s DCEU seems to be in an interesting moment right now with the polarizing Batman V Superman dividing the fanbase even more, the Suicide Squad movie being around the corner, Geoff Johns reportedly joining the creative process of this cinematic universe and a ton of rumors about possible movies.

The more recent of this developments has been the reveal that the Wonder Woman movie starring Gal Gadot and to be set in World War I has a reported budget of $100 millions. To put it in perspective, Captain America: First Avenger had a budget of $140 millions. Likewise, Man of Steel had a budget of $225 millions, Batman v. Superman $250 millions and there are rumors that Suicide Squad is going to likewise be $250 millions.

I don’t think it is particularly hard to see a clear difference in the amount of funding those three movies got in comparison to Wonder Woman who, I shall remind everyone, is going to be the first high-profile Superhero movie starring a female lead. So, naturally, there are people who are concerned at Warner Brothers seeming lack of faith in this movie and how miniscule this budget is compared to the rest of the DCEU. Some feel Warner Brothers should have given the movie the $200 millions mark that is becoming common in Superhero movies (and other blockbusters, for that matter)

My opinion?

Wonder Woman’s Budget is perfectly fine. It’s just everybody else’s budgets are insane.

Now, I know what some people are thinking. That it is unfair that Superman can get a budget of $225 millions for his first movie in years while Wonder Woman doesn’t get even half of that amount. And you are correct, it IS unfair. It’s probably true that Warner Borther’s reasons for doing this has to do with the “women are not profitable” argument. That she is “risky”. If this was any other male hero, chances are the budget would have been bigger.

However, I think the practice of giving budgets of $200 millions to movies constantly and then expect to get your money back and then some is incredibly toxic. Because then they don’t just have to sell well, they have to sell even better than they possibly can.

Let’s take a look at some other superhero movies and their domestic box offices, shall we?

Amazing spider-man: $230M Budget + profit of $260M domestic = BARELY managed to make it’s money back and had to rely on foreign box office to make a profit.

Man of Steel: $225M +$ 290M domestic box office = same thing.

x-men first class : $160M + $146M domestic (technically a flop) = had to be saved by foreign box office.

In case you are confused as to what this numbers mean, allow me to explain:

Man of Steel made $290M domestic. That is, to be fair, a lot of money. However, once you remove the budget, that translates to $65M, still plenty of money, but only 28% of Man of Steel’s budget (please remember this point). And let’s not kid ourselves, WB did not give Zack Snyder more than $200M because they expected around $50M of profits and $65M was some sort of pleasent surprise

Now Amazing Spider-man: It made $260M domestically. However, once you take how much money it took to make, it only made a profit of 11% the movie’s budget. Now, I wasn’t able to find ASM2’s budget so, for simplicity sake, i am going to assume it had the same budget as the previous one. that, and with a domestic box office of $202M leaves you with a profit of -12% the movies budget.

I’ll repeat again.

This movies made over $200M dollars, which is a lot of money. A movie that is able to make a profit of $200M should be, despite how you feel about them, a comercial success. But Sony had to drop their plans for the franchise because the ACTUAL profit Sony was making was too small.

X-men First class: -8%

Now, Deadpool. Domestic box office of $362M. An impressive number. However, taking into account what we just saw, how Man of Steel only made 28%. how much ACTUAL profit did this movie actually make? 50% of it’s budget? 70%?

Go on. Guess.

done?

okay

You ready?

Over 500%

Not only did it make more money than Man of Steel, it could have made half the money that MoS did and still would have been more profitable. It was more profitable than Iron Man 3 (Budget $200M, Domestic Box Office $409M = 104%)

why?

Because it had a budget of $58M.

And-Man did not even make $200M domestically and it was still considered a financial success. Because it had $135M budget.

Where am I going with this? That big budgets a profitable movies does not make. This has been proven time and time again. SPECIALLY when it is not the sequel to some highly succesful film. It was proven with Pacific Rim (budget $190M, Domestic Box Office $101K = -46%), It was proven with Tomorrowland (budget $190M, Domestic box office $93M = -51%) and it was proven with Man of Steel.

Remember Man of Steel’s budget vs profit? how it’s actual profit domestically was 28% over Man of Steel’s budget? imagine that the movies budget had been $200M (I am preeeeeety sure Snyder could have sacrificed something that would have kept the movie’s budget on that number and it would not have drastically changed the box office numbers) then, instead of 28%, it would have been 45%. Same with ASM.

Because this movies DO make money, a lot. But because they have such absurd budgets, that profit is a lot less than it should be and a movie that makes $200 millions is marked by the studio as a financial failure.

And it is the reason why we are seeing so many movies try to go to the foreign box office (mainly the chinese market) to make some form of profit.

And before you try to say that the foreign market means it is acceptable to have this kind of budgets, two things:

  1. The United States Box Office is STILL the biggest in the world. 45% of Star Wars: The Force Awakens overall gross came from The United States. that’s almost $1 billion.
  2. exporting movies and localizing them is not exactly cheap, nor does the studios necessarily get as much a percentage of the box office as they would in The United States.

Worldwide gross has to be three times the budget before it can be considered profitable.

In other words, while the foreign box office CAN “save” a movie, it is not always the case nor is it a reliable way to make sure a movie is a success (there is also the costs of advertising, which are not covered by the budget, but you get the idea).

Now, i am not saying I think no budget should ever be anywhere close to $150M or that the $200M mark should be forbidden. No, what I am speaking about is Budgeting the movies accordingly without believing that increasing the budget = More Profit.

Bringing back Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it had a budget of $245M. However, Disney correctly assumed how much pull the Star Wars brand had and budgeted accordingly. Just take a look at how much Disney sold even before the movie came out. The budget that movie had was justified not just from the previous movies, but because of how well it already sold.

And this brings me to Wonder Woman’s $100M budget (which, from what I have read, in practical terms may translate to First Avenger’s $140M budget when you take into account certain factors. But i can’t neither confirm nor deny these).

I will repeat myself again. This is not Warner Brothers suddenly having a change of hearts on $200M Movies and deciding starting with Wonder Woman onwards all their movies are going to have a more reasonable budget. No. They are playing it safe, and they are doing it exactly for the reasons you are thinking.

The same way Fox did for Deadpool. They did not feel confident of an R-rated movie, so they gave it a low budget to play it safe.

And, honestly? Thank Hera.

I believe Wonder Woman is going to be a sucess, that it is going to make plenty of money. I honestly do. But I do not want them to give her such a big budget that, on top of having the pressure of being the first female lead in the current age of Superhero movies, she now has to, somehow, create more money than it should be expected or physically possible for her solo debut to do. Making $200M domestically is the best the movie should be expected to make. But if she has too big a budget, it will be what she is demanded by WB minnimum.

And yes, I know about how Deadpool had to repeat locations because their budgets and how they joked about it. So what? can we stop pretending that something below $150M looks cheaply made?

Ant-Man had a $135M budget and I would argue that at times it was more visually pleasent than Man of Steel. And Wonder Woman has a budget closer to them than Deadpool’s (bear in mind, though, that I would not complain for a budget of around $140M, just any amount too higher than that amount)

I don’t think  Wonder Woman’s Budget is too small, I think Man of Steel’s budget was too big.

EDIT: Thanks to Jersey Mike for some extra info.

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