No. 19 ‘The Revenant’ – 2015 Most Valuable Movie Blockbuster Tournament

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.

20th Century Fox

If you judged the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu-directed story of mauled wilderness trapper from all the stories of adversity and budget overruns, it would have been hard to imagine the picture ending up as the 19th most profitable feature of 2015. But you have to go back to films like Apocalypse Now to come up with a picture that overcame more adversity to become an absolute masterpiece. Consider that Inarritu, his cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson and the rest of the cast would rise early each morning, drive far into the Canadian wilderness to find pristine settings, usually left with just enough natural light to compile a scene or maybe two, before heading back and then doing the same thing all over again. The results were worth all the hardship: Inarritu and Lubezki both won Oscars and so did DiCaprio, who finally earned gold after a long string of worthy performances where he was shut out. The film’s backers — New Regency’s Arnon Milchan and his chief exec Brad Weston, and James Packer and Brett Ratner’s RatPac, China-based Guangdong Alpha Animation and Culture Company, and Fox — weathered the adversity with singular results.

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

Reports had the original budget starting at $60M, then ballooning to $95M and finally topping out at $135M. This could easily have been another Heaven’s Gate, but it most certainly was not. It was a filmmaker, coming off an Oscar for Birdman, putting all his chips on the table. Like Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese, Inarritu delivered a career-best performance with DiCaprio, inarguably the world’s most bankable star now. As for The Revenant, ending up with $61M and change net profit after all that adversity — with a 1.17 cash on cash return — is a fitting epitaph for a film that ought to age well over time.

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