No. 10 ‘The Martian’ – 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

Ridley Scott, whose film Alien defined the look of outer space movies for decades, returned to orbit with The Martian, an adaptation of the Andy Weir book about stranded space botanist Mark Watney and his attempt to keep himself alive long enough to be rescued. The film had a high difficulty of execution, considering that Watney spends a good portion of the film alone on camera. Much the way that Sandra Bullock pulled that off in Gravity and Tom Hanks did the same in Cast Away, Matt Damon proved to be the ideal actor with the charm and humor to hold the screen while still investing the audience in the emotional core of a man trying to survive for years by growing food and creating water on a planet that has neither. While Scott was inexplicably snubbed for an Oscar, Damon was rewarded with a Best Actor nomination. But how did The Martian fare on the ledger sheet?

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

While there was plenty of suspense over whether Damon would get off that planet, there was no doubt The Martian was going to be a big hit when Fox unveiled it at the Toronto Film Festival before its October 2 launch. A $54M opening-weekend domestic set the tone for a film that grossed over $629M globally, the highest ever for Scott. That included $94M in China, a country that figured in the plot of the film and was portrayed glowingly. They managed to bring in a state-of-the-art 3D space film for a very reasonable $108M budget. Superstar talent let to a higher participation budget line than many of the films we’ve covered so far, but not too excessive. The Martian landed seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and our experts place its net profit payout to Fox at $150M, for a Cash on Cash Return of 1.4. The track record of recent movies set on Mars has been dismal, but The Martian colonized the Red Planet for future journeys.

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