It was a good year in film making. Yes, 2013 had quite a few strong contenders during awards season, and also with audiences around the globe. After all, it’s the box office revenue that makes or breaks a film. Some films that are produced never even make it to the big screen. They are instantly relegated to the rental and on-demand markets, which is still a pretty good niche.
Most of the movies on this most expensive film list (for 2013), are franchises. It’s not surprising that they all have a high level of special effects and also that all are in the sci-fi, fantasy and animation genres. Heck, special effects gadgets and technologies are constantly improving so the costs that accompany the breakthroughs are high.
Out of this entire list of ten, only one movie failed to make the grade in profitability, and that was The Lone Ranger. It just didn’t sit well or draw audiences into the high-priced theaters. The rest managed to make pretty healthy profits, even though some ran over budget.
Interestingly enough, blockbusters like Gravity and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire did not make it to this list, as they came in at $38 million and $135 million to produce, respectively. We won’t mention that Gravity‘s gross is topping the $700 million mark when we last checked and the second in the Hunger Games franchise is going off the charts at $1 billion.
One never knows how the ratio between expenses and revenue are going to play out in the long run, but it’s clear that audiences love to pay for extravagant visual effects and grandiose plots that take them far-far away. Of course, not all movies require these mega-budgets and some of the lower budget films actually bring in more than two to five times production expenses. Most on this list, tops out at 100 percent in gross revenue profitability. (It should also be noted that gross revenues are a far cry from net revenues.) All-in-all, 2013 was a great year for films.
10. G.I. Joe: Retaliation: $185 Million
Bruce Willis, Dwayne Johnson and Channing Tatum are not new to the action film genre. In fact, they might be the manliest men on the planet. Young Channing is the leader of the gang in the story about nuclear warheads, presidential impersonations and an escape to the Himalayas. G.I. Joe is a favorite among young male kids who love to play video games and with action heroes with the same name. Our U.S. action movies do so well overseas that two-thirds of the box office gross of $375,740,705 came from international sales.
9. World War Z: $190 Million
The story is based on a novel written by Max Brooks. With Brad Pitt in the starring role of Gerry Lane, former U.N. investigator is on a mission to stop a zombie pandemic. Brad’s production company bought the film rights in 2007 and although it took a couple of years to pull it all together with the right team, it was made and well received. The film’s original budget came in at $125 million but once the location was twice moved – once to Scotland and once to Budapest, Hungary – the film was behind schedule. It seems the script required a few rewrites by different screenwriters. However, even with the delays, World War Z turned out to be a good film and it’s 2D and 3D grand openings received thumbs up reviews. What turned into a $190 million budget was well worth it, as the worldwide gross came in at $540 million. Rumor has it, a sequel is scheduled.
8. Star Trek: Into Darkness: $190 Million
The Star Trek franchise has been going strong since it was owned by Desilu Productions (1964-1967). Desilu was acquired by Gulf and Western which changed the name to Paramount. That’s how long Star Trek has been around. The first Star Trek feature film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, was produced in 1979 as a sequel to the popular TV series. The newest film brings the Star Trek feature film count to 12 and the last one to be produced was four years ago (2009), Star Trek. Star Trek: Into Darkness was as good as ever and ended up grossing a whopping $466,978,661 and is still going strong in the rental market. Looks like Star Trek is here to stay for a while longer.
7. Pacific Rim: $190 Million
This is one sea-creature thriller, that’s for sure. You may not recognize the names, but will remember their faces once you see this box office hit. Basically, it’s a war that could result in the end of the world inhabitants until a pilot and trainee are paired to save the world from the monstrous sea creatures. The film was nominated for over 19 awards, according to IMDB and brought in $411,002,906 gross worldwide ticket sales, with three-quarters coming from abroad.
6. Iron Man 3: 200 Million
In this Iron Man installment, Tony Stark fights against The Mandarin terrorist. Robert Downey, Jr., as Tony Stark is a strong part of this star-studded, ensemble cast with: Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, Paul Bettany and more. It holds the record for being the second largest opening weekend ticket sales with $175.3 million and went on to gross $585 million worldwide. This is one of the most successful franchises of them all.
5. Monsters University: $200 Million
The Monsters Inc. franchise is going strong, with Monsters University continuing successfully in 2013. Who could be more fun to watch and listen to than John Goodman and Billy Crystal? The colorful animation and character development has been captivating audiences for years now and Monsters U gives us more of exactly what we love and it’s success is clear in the worldwide gross of $743,559,607.
4. The Lone Ranger: $215 Million
The Lone Ranger is a remake of the classic 50’s television series, but did not live up to its budget. This feature film starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer did not draw in the audiences ($175.5 million worldwide) and wound up losing close to $190 million according to printed figures (although we don’t understand Disney’s math). Years of rentals may change the situation a bit; maybe. Disney claims to follow the “tentpole strategy” for choosing their productions. That is: hiring a talented cast and use massive marketing.
3. Oz the Great and Powerful: $215 Million
This remake will do well with younger audiences who did not grow up with the all-time favorite, Judy Garland version. James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams and so many more stars brought this story to life in the 2013 production. The sets and special effects are extraordinary and even though it was a costly film to produce, it has since brought in twice as much; $483,211,825.
2. Man of Steel: $225 Million
Another version of one of our favorite superhero classics, Man of Steel gives a slightly different perspective to Superman’s awakening. Kevin Costner plays Superman’s earthly father, Diane Lane as his earthly mother, Russell Crowe as Jor-el, his real father and Amy Adams as Lois Lane which gives this production star-power. Man of Steel, Henry Cavill, is challenged by the outcasts from his birth planet, Krypton and is once again able to use his super skill set to prevail. This production’s effects made Superman a speeding bullet, for sure.
1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: $225 Million
The entire Tolkien series has been well-received, although it was difficult to understand why this particular part of the story was broken into two parts, as it was the shortest of the four books. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the second half of Frodo’s story. It’s not surprising it was the most expensive production of the year. Between sets, costumes, actor’s salaries, makeup, locations and special effects. There were concerns that this sequel-prequel wasn’t going to hit its financial mark, but with $619.9 million in global revenue, we have to call it a success.