No. 5 ‘Furious 7’ – 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.

Universal Pictures

The fact that Furious 7 even got made was a miracle, in that it dealt with the tragic death of franchise stalwart star Paul Walker in the midst of filming. That it turned out to be a financial juggernaut that grossed $1.5B worldwide, the sixth-largest-grossing film in movie history. Here is how the costs and revenues played out:

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

Universal did a lot right in 2015, but Furious 7 ought to serve as the textbook example of how to manage an unmanageable crisis on a movie. The idea of having to bring back cast for a racing film when their beloved co-star died in a fiery crash in a muscle car is unprecedented in scope. Paul WalkerIt was also daunting because this was the first film in the franchise to be directed by James Wan, who took over for Justin Lin after that director’s long run with the series. Wan is an established genre hitmaker, but how does a studio continue, without looking exploitative? Universal did a near-perfect job and honored the memory of Walker by giving him a touching send-off and even promoting charities the actor supported. Universal suspended production and waited half a year before resuming. That allowed the cast to properly mourn Walker and for writer Chris Morgan and Wan to write around what already had been shot. Walker’s brothers, Caleb and Cody, worked as stand-ins, and the studio’s transparency made it all feel OK.

The film turned in a remarkable $147M domestic opening weekend and cleaned up all over the world, including China, where it grossed $390M. That brought the total global box office to $1.5B. It became the highest-grossing film in the series, set a record for an April opening and was the fourth-biggest global opening of all time. Now, there are so many stars with backend in this franchise that the participations and residuals and off-the-tops reached around $110M, according to our experts. That money was paid after Universal recouped its production costs, when the participants shared 40 cents of every dollar, beyond the upfront salaries they received that were reflected in the production budget. That is the price of doing business with a lucrative franchise that has spanned seven installments and picked up stars like Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and Kurt Russell to go with the original stars Vin Diesel and Walker, and numerous others who came in during the franchise run. Despite this, the global gross was so high on Furious 7 that Universal’s net profit was $354M, for a Cash on Cash Return of 1.54.

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