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: The sixth and final trip to JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth by director Peter Jackson, The Battle Of The Five Armies completed the author’s seminal tale The Hobbit that served as a prequel to The Lord Of The Rings. How did it stack up when compared against the other five films, and what kind of final legacy did it create for one of the great movie franchises of all-time?
THE BOX SCORE: Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:
THE BOTTOM LINE: Our experts report that the final installment lagged slightly behind the domestic box of the previous two Hobbit films, and they estimate the total cost on this one was $300 million. That, plus first-dollar gross for Peter Jackson and possibly Guillermo del Toro, and MGM’s position, and cash break deals for the cast led our experts to peg the participations on this film to be $85M. This leaves Warner Bros with an estimated net profit of $103.38M, with Cash on Cash return of 1.15. But hey, people get paid when they star in six pictures. And the entire six-picture series is one of the great success stories of this era in Hollywood. Starting from 1995, when Harvey Weinstein was told he couldn’t make the series by Disney’s Michael Eisner. Down to his last shot at a turnaround deal, Jackson pitched two movies to New Line chief Bob Shaye, who bet his whole company on three. The Hobbit had its own set of gyrations that included setting del Toro to direct and co-write with Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, only to see the whole thing come to a screeching halt when MGM became frozen in bankruptcy. GdT moved on to Pacific Rim and Jackson restored himself as director. Add a perforated ulcer for Jackson, and a decision to split two intended movies into three films. Despite the tsuris, the collective accomplishment here is unprecedented. The six films grossed nearly $6 billion; won 17 Oscars, including Best Picture for Return Of The King, on a total of 36 Oscar nominations; New Zealand firmly established as a production and post-production hub for event films, all built on Middle Earth revenues. Two of the six films grossed north of $1 billion: Return Of The King at $1.1B and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at $1B. What a ride!