When it comes to evaluating the financial performance of top movies, it isn’t about what a film grosses at the box office. The true tale is told when production budgets, P&A, talent participations and other costs collide with box office grosses, and ancillary revenues from VOD to DVD and TV. To get close to that mysterious end of the equation, Deadline is repeating our Most Valuable Blockbuster tournament, using data culled by seasoned and trusted sources. We’re counting down from No. 20 and will present the data en masse Monday.


THE FILM: Guardians Of The Galaxy seemed like the film where Marvel maestro Kevin Feige was going to hit the wall, after an unprecedented streak of hits and franchise launches. A talking racoon? Vin Diesel as a tree? The fat guy from Parks And Rec as the next action hero, and Avatar‘s blue heroine, painted green? This seemed like a movie made on a drunk dare more than a carefully constructed new franchise. What a surprise? One of the most fun popcorn films of the year, and the one that birthed an aerobicized Chris Pratt as the most coveted leading man to come along in years. So how did it fare, profit-wise? Let’s have a look.

THE BOX SCORE: Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:

THE BOTTOM LINE: The film silenced any doubters (guilty!) on its very first weekend, when the film scored the top domestic opening weekend ever for an August bow, with $94.3 million. Word of mouth kept it soaring. Even the soundtrack of ’70s standards spawned a hit record and just the right playful touch for a film that had Marvel’s perfect mix of comedy and action. Disney’s penchant for being tough on talent, and the fact that Pratt wasn’t a movie star, kept the gross payout non-existent, though established talent from Zoe Saldana to Diesel and Bradley Cooper in voice-over mode, and director James Gunn certainly cashed  back end checks after the film reached cash break. Our experts peg the film’s net budget at $196M–$30M over the original projection–but it was all on the screen. The film grossed $333M domestic, and added another $344.5M foreign, and another $96.47M from China (worth $24M to the bottom line). On a worldwide gross of $774.2M Disney’s net haul was $204.2M, for a Cash on Cash Return of 1.39. That’s extraordinary for a new franchise. Better yet, the film was so good that who doesn’t want to see a sequel? The next film, if as fun and well executed as the original, ought to broaden its business overseas, enough to possibly crack the billion-dollar gross mark. And how smart was Bob Iger to spend that $4 billion on Marvel?