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.

LA LA LAND
Lionsgate

THE FILM

From the moment it appeared in fall festivals like Toronto, La La Land became the prohibitive Oscar favorite. And hey, for about three minutes at least it won Best Picture, even if the golden trophies were soon snatched away by the rightful winners, the producers of Moonlight. This isn’t how La La Land will be remembered in this tournament. The film, which won six Oscars including Best Actress for Emma Stone, and Best Director for Damien Chazelle, became a breakout hit that far outpaced its $30 million cost to turn in a strong profit performance for Lionsgate and its financing partner Black Label Media. The film is still in release, so its profit picture continues to climb, even if it is mostly played out at this point. I attended its Toronto premiere. Wasn’t in love with its exuberant opening number on the freeway, but the moment Stone (as struggling actress) and Ryan Gosling (as struggling jazz man) shared the screen, the natural reaction was to hope they continue to make movies together, again and again. Let’s check out the film’s score in the only kinds of notes that matter to distributors and financiers.

THE BOX SCORE

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

THE BOTTOM LINE

The film’s plot delivered a bittersweet ending, and so did the Academy Awards. But the final ending here is a happy one, even if Lionsgate shares the windfall with Black Label. The film was greatly helped by launching with all the attendant awards-season attention that goes to a frontrunner, and has grossed $150 million here, and another $277.1 million overseas; that includes $35.8M that was made in China. Foreign contribution of $55M accounts for Lionsgate’s pre-sales on the original musical plus the profits it generated in the UK where they control distribution of the film.  Chazelle was an up-and-comer writer-director, while Stone and Gosling and among the best and brightest young stars, so not surprisingly the Participations and Residuals and Off-the-Tops are significant and total about $47.5 million. According to our experts, La La Land returned $68.25 million in net profits on total costs of $143.75 million, for a Cash on Cash Return of 1.47. That leaves all the participants signing a happy tune. It also has helped give a shot in the arm to the movie musical.