Darth Vader Is The Most Successful Star Wars Character Ever, But Still No Return Of The Jedi Residuals For Actor

from the these-are-not-the-profits-you're-looking-for dept

Wired has put together a very cool Milennium Falcon infographic illustrated by Michael Cerwonka, to show the breakdown of revenues generated by the Star Wars franchise over its entire history (thanks to Jacob for sending this in). By combining data and estimates, they clock the total in at a cool $33-billion (click for big version):

They also found out which character is (unsurprisingly) the most successful overall:

What we all want to know, of course, is which character is worth the most? On that, the privately held Lucasfilm is coy. “Darth Vader is one of the most popular Star Wars characters across most product categories,” a Lucasfilm spokes-Wookiee says. “Your instincts are correct.”

This is amusing, because as you may recall, last year we discussed the fact that the actor who portrayed Darth Vader has never been paid residuals for Return of the Jedi because Lucasfilm claims the movie still hasn’t turned a profit. One has to assume that, somewhere in that $33-billion figure, there are enough Return revenues to cover the $32.5-million it cost to make, even adjusting for inflation. But of course, that’s not how Hollywood accounting works.

I know some will say too bad and blame the actor for signing the contract, but it’s still impossible to accept the notion that the 15th highest-grossing film ever has never become profitable. That can only happen with crafty accounting, where the studios use various techniques to keep revenues just below costs on paper while still pulling in millions of dollars for themselves. Maybe it’s up to actors and other creative workers to demand better contract terms—or maybe it’s just another good reason for them to escape the Hollywood system.

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Companies: lucasfilm

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Comments on “Darth Vader Is The Most Successful Star Wars Character Ever, But Still No Return Of The Jedi Residuals For Actor”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Quantum mechanics

Actually, what you mockingly call Hollywood Accounting is yet another example of Quantum mechanics. It is sort of the Schr?dinger’s Cat experiment sort of applied to economics. The result is that we are actually talking about an economic singularity much like black holes. But while these siphon in all matter into a single super-gravity point, Hollywood movies create singularities that siphon all money into a very limited group of pockets. As a matter of fact, we should give this issue some serious study, there are claims by renowned research institute MPAA that if it wasn’t for the phenomenon known as Piracy, these singularities would have ‘eaten’ all the world GDP to the point the financial system would collapse under the unfathomable weight.


Anonymous Coward says:

Director's cut...

I may be wrong about this, but I seem to remember a story from way back in the 70s when the original “Star Wars” was made, that the fee George Lucas negotiated with 20th Century Fox was 2% of the GROSS!

If that’s the case, then it’s a pity the actors weren’t given a similar deal!

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Director's cut...

Alec Guiness has most certainly been paid – he negotiated a percentage of the gross.

You are thinking of Dave Prowse. Dave Prowse was the man inside the mask – right up to the point where it was taken off!

Hayden Christiansen was the revealed face of Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi and always has been.

Err no – it was originally Sebastian Shaw

Hayden Christensen was photoshopped in for the 2004 DVD.

Jeffry Houser (profile) says:

Shouldn't $33 Billion be $4.5 Billion

“one has to assume that, somewhere in that $33-billion figure, there are enough Return revenues to cover the $32.5-million it cost to make, even adjusting for inflation. “

Of the $33 billion figure, only a portion of that ($4.5 Billion) is from the movies–as per the infographic you posted.

Is it likely that items like toys or books should be related to the movie’s profit?

Granted, even with the $4.5billion, I would expect that ROTJ has turned a profit

JeffH says:

Re: Shouldn't $33 Billion be $4.5 Billion

Actually I was just mathing that for another reason. The *box office* is 4.5B, but “from the movies”, IMO, should include box office, dvds, and rentals. Combine those and you come up with a nice round $10B. Which is still only 66% of the toys alone, which is what I was looking at in the first place.
Mind you, I still don’t accept that ROTJ has not turned a profit. That’s an utter mega-metric buick load of BS that only a hollywood accountant would believe.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hey, it costs a LOT of money making sure that the 15th most profitable movie still isn’t profitable for the actors! Look at all the expenses involved!

-Paying Hollywood for the right to produce Starwars movies and games and merchandise, etc.

-Paying Hollywood $1.01 in royalties for every $1 earned.

-Paying Hollywood for the right to film your movie at a Hollywood studio.

-Paying the tax bills for the Hollywood executives and studios collecting the royalty payments (why should they have to spend of their royalty revenue on taxes when Star Wars products can pay the taxes for them!)

-Paying Hollywood to hire an accountant to make up #’s and send an accounting statement to Star Wars actors who expect but won’t ever get royalty payments.

See, it’s a VERY expensive process making movies!

RD says:

Re: A good question

“Exactly how is piracy harming a business model that doesn’t turn a profit?

If the best movies are not making a profit (long before digital piracy), then I don’t understand how piracy is hurting the industry.

Ok trolls, please explain.”

This, times 1000. ShillTrolls(tm), please explain either this above question, or else how can you justify all the accounting tricks employed to keep the actual artists/creators from getting paid.

Explain, or you will never have justification to complain again.

Anonymous Coward says:

think of the extent that ‘pirates’ can be blamed for the monetary failure of this movie. think of the amount the studios can claim at statutory damages rates if they sued all those ‘pirates’. think of how the number of times this movie has allegedly been downloaded, has prevented poor old ‘Darth Vader’ from being paid! Hollywood Accounting? never! it was those pesky ‘pirates’!!

Bergerfet says:

Disturbance in the force

How is it, that Space Balls the movie turned a profit and Return of the Jedi didn’t. Its the corp greed that fuels the machines that spit out the non sense that hollywood is loosing money. They expect the average American to spend $13-$20 to go see a clunker of a movie like “The Five-Year Engagement” after they spent 50 million to make it, then blame piracy when it tanks. At the same time they screw the artist that make a movie like ROTJ an epic success by telling him, oh sorry we just haven’t turned a profit on the $33 billion we’ve collected. Stop making Sh*t movies and people will come. I don’t see The Avengers studio crying about piracy. Even Wolverine which was released in the piracy world a month before the movie came out still made $87 million opening weekend. Such Bulls**t

Anonymous Coward says:

it isn’t correct to include all possible income, and then say the film had to have made profit by now, you don’t know his contract, if the actual film has not made any profit, by what ever accounting they claim, he gets no money, dvd’s and video games didn’t exist then etc… need more facts about the legal specifics to be able to claim anything, and neither side has been forthcoming with that info

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

At the very least, the actor is entitled to a cut of the royalties from sales/rentals of the movie itself. The actor has stated that multiple times he gets letters in the mail, saying “Sorry, the movie is still not profitable, so you get nothing”. Since this is one of the biggest and most popular movies of all time, that is bogus.
We do know the movie has made a profit, thank you very much. Unless you’ve redefined what profit is. Profit is what income you earn once you’ve recouped your initial costs/investments. As said in the article, RotJ cost $32 million. The movie has made WAY more than that in sales of copies of the movie since then.

Anonymous Coward says:

Wash, rinse, repeat. Must be a slow news day when you are back on this story again.

Guy signed a stupid contract, and got shafted as a result of it – agreeing to get paid AFTER profits and points are removed, not before.

His choice, he signed it, his lawyers certainly helped him out with it, and there you go.

Stop whining.

mikey4001 says:

Re: Re:

I would hesitate to call it a “stupid” contract. Perhaps it is unwise to sign a contract that stipulates net rather than gross, but to suggest that it is somehow the actor’s fault that George Lucas is playing jedi mind tricks with the profits from ROTJ is a little off base. The only thing the actor did that might be considered stupid was believe that people like Megalomaniac Neckbeard the Hutt and his ilk would ever be honest and honor their end of the deal (and pray the don’t alter it further).

As others have said, these greedheads have built Empires (literally) by cheating, swindling, and telling lies, yet they expect me to respect their “intellectual property” because, well shucks, it’s just the right thing to do, and some poor sap might not get paid if I don’t. Seems to me like that poor sap ain’t gonna get paid anyway, so why should I give a flying bantha poodoo?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t consider them crooks. I consider them talented – but certainly not wise in many ways.

Signing for net money is never a good idea. Getting people to SIGN for net money is. It’s their business model. The guy signing for net should have asked what percentages of gross were gone before the net would be considered. He would have likely found the numbers way too high to justify a net deal, and would have taken a much smaller number of gross if he could have gotten it.

As for pirate, I don’t consider it an issue here, why even bother to bring it up?

JMT says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“I don’t consider them crooks. I consider them talented…”

You’d be in the minority here then. When you contractually promise actors a share of the profits, and then use unethical accounting tricks to make a clearly profitable film look unprofitable on paper, you’re a crook. That doesn’t take talent, just a lack of morals.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Signing for net money is never a good idea. Getting people to SIGN for net money is. “

You justify fraud and theft in the hope of the real talent making your product valuable not having the legal knowledge to defend themselves against your lies. That’s pretty slimy, don’t you think?

“As for pirate, I don’t consider it an issue here, why even bother to bring it up?”

Because you morons always do.

RadialSkid (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

As for pirate, I don’t consider it an issue here, why even bother to bring it up?

Because if I didn’t, you’d read my line “Stop defending crooks,” and then be all “You say that now, but you and Pirate Mike and the rest of the gang here defend crooks like the Pirate Bay and Kimdotcom all the time! COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT! BIG SEARCH COOKIES!”

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The ACs here never cease to amaze me…

In stories where people are merely expressing their desire for better options or promoting better business models, these fools always attack people as “pirates”, even in cases where they state how they pay for products (yep, that’s happened to me on many occasions). They won’t stop attacking people for the potential of lost revenue, and even directly attack artists for daring to choose models that don’t include their beloved gatekeepers.

Yet, in stories like this where labels and studios are clearly ripping artists off, they change their tune and defend the actual theft! Apparently stealing from artists is OK in their eyes so long as you have a lawyer draft something beforehand…

Yes, you moronic anonymous fool, Dave Prowse did sign a contract. He signed a contract guaranteeing him money on the back of the profits from one of the surest fire hits in movie history, that went on to be one of the most successful movies of all time. That you justify him being robbed through accounting trickery and lies pretty much undermines every point you’ve ever made about the supposed lost sales from “piracy”. You’re the thief, liar and fool here, and the sooner new business models remove people like you from the equation, the better off real artists will be. Sorry if that means that the corporations you worship no longer get paid, but that’s a small price to pay for honesty.

S Jones (profile) says:

SlashFilm explains the Jedi accounting trick

SlashFilm explains how the profit is accounted away (“These aren’t the profits you are looking for…”) http://www.slashfilm.com/lucasfilm-tells-darth-vader-that-return-of-the-jedi-hasnt-made-a-profit/

“26 years after the release of the film, [if George Lucas spends the weekend at the Ritz Carlton in New York] the accountants at Lucasfilm are going to charge $86,000 to the costs of Return of the Jedi. I am NOT joking. This is what they do. If George Lucas utters the words Star Wars and he?s spending money, they?re putting it on the red line for one of those films.”

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