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 for 2019, using data culled by seasoned and trusted sources.
After trying the one-shot technique in an extended opening action sequence in the 007 film Spectre, director Sam Mendes engaged DP Roger Deakins to shoot an entire movie that way to capture the tedium and hellish terror of World War I trench warfare. Inspired by stories told him by his WWI messenger grandfather 50 years ago, Mendes co-wrote his first script with Krysty Wilson-Cairns and reunited with DreamWorks, the studio where he made his Oscar-winning directing debut on 1999’s American Beauty.
While 1917 was upended by underdog Parasite at the Academy Awards, Deakins won his second career Oscar. Too late for the fall festivals, they locked print in late November, just in time to factor into awards season and establish itself as one of the last-minute favorites. Universal, which had previously handled Amblin’s Best Picture Oscar winner Green Book a year ago, rolled out 1917 in limited theaters during the year-end holiday season to solid results of $2.7 million. As happened with Green Book, 1917‘s surprise Best Film-Drama win at the Golden Globes boosted its profile, sending its wide January opening-weekend estimates from $20M to $37M, a great start fueled by business in the Red State area of the Midwest and Southwest. 1917 earned 10 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, and Mendes’ second as director. Business escalated 210% in the period between the Oscar noms and Oscar night, and the film continued to see another 20% jump in its total box office post-Oscars.
THE BOX SCORE
Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:
THE BOTTOM LINE
Like Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, 1917 played strong without big stars. It earned $375M worldwide through the first quarter of this year. The film was cleared to play in China before coronavirus shut everything down, and is expected to follow through when theaters re-open there. That territory’s box office typically sees a 25% rental for the studio, so we could be looking at total revenues north of $367M if that happens. New Republic co-financed the $100M production cost before global P&A of $115M. Participations of $20M go largely to Mendes, considering the fresh-faced lead actors. Net profit is figured at $77M after worldwide costs of $290M.