When Is A Movie In The Black?

If you ask ten people at what point a movie becomes profitable, you’ll probably get ten answers, each slightly different than the one that proceeded it.

Based on what I have read what I tend to do is double the production costs, as far as breaking even goes.  I’m aware that a movie also has expenses attached to marketing, and that theaters get their cut, though I’ve heard so many varying ideas about what those numbers are that i tend not to put too much stock in them.

Besides, while a studio may release the budget of a particular motion picture, they don’t often release marketing costs, and those can vary greatly based upon the type of film being promoted (typically, I throw in $50 million or so for a tentpole, but that number can also vary–I have also heard of instances where marketing costs add up to half, or even more, of the cost of the producing the movie itself).

In terms of profitability, I tend to use the 3X rule, namely if your movie has earned at least three times its production costs, then that movie is a success (by which I mean you’re in the black).

For instance, Marvel’s Ant-Man has earned over $401 millon, on a $130 million budget.  As far as I can tell that’s pretty successful, particularly for a character that to some is a “flavor of the week.

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2 thoughts on “When Is A Movie In The Black?

  1. I found the same thing you mention, in that a good rule of thumb is to double the production budget. I looked into this myself about a month ago, specifically for comic-book movies, and Ant-Man seemed to fall right in line with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, making about as much money as Captain America and Thor, and it did so on a smaller budget.

    • I was pretty confident in my formula, till I learned that theaters get a cut as well (which makes sense when you think about it).

      The problem is that till this day I have no idea (there are a lot of different theories I’ve heard bandied about that sound ludicrously high) how much that is.

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