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The Answer To The $200 Million Movie Question

from the there-is-no-$200-million-movie dept

Last month, at the CATO Institute conference on copyrights, someone from NBC Universal asked both Professor David Levine and me how NBC could keep making $200 million movies like King Kong without super strong copyright regulations. We each gave our answers that didn't satisfy some. However, as I noted in the recap to the event, the guy from NBC Universal was asking the wrong question. It's like going back to the early days of the PC and asking how IBM would keep making mainframes. The point is that $200 million movies may mostly be a thing of the past. The near immediate response from NBC Universal and other stronger copyright supporters is that this is a "loss" to society -- since we want these movies. However, that shows a misunderstanding of the answer. No one is saying to make worse movies -- but to recognize that it should no longer cost so much to make a movie. The same economics professor, David Levine, who was asked the question is now highlighting exactly this point on his blog. Last week there was a lot of publicity around a group of Finns who created a Star Trek spoof and are trying to help others make and promote inexpensive, high quality movies as well. Levine notes that the quality of the spoof movie is astounding -- not all that far off from what you'd expect from a huge blockbuster sci-fi picture, but was done with almost no budget at all. Given the advances in technology, the quality is only going to improve. So, again, it would appear that a big part of the answer to the $200 million movie question is simply that anyone spending $200 million on a movie these days is doing an awful job containing costs.

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  1. identicon
    mthorn, 15 May 2006 @ 8:36am

    Re: Re: Budget

    It looks to me like Star Wreck was done probono by the people involved. No actors paid, no directors paid, no crew paid. The only money spent seems to be on the cost of tangibles like computers and video equipment. Hardware is the cheap.

    When you start paying the hundreds of people involved in a film a decent hourly wage for their work (I'm not talking $20 million a film), money adds up fast.

    Universal gave the makers (Joss Whedon, etc) or Serenity a relativley low budget of $39 million. Whedon considered this more than needed but put the extra money back into the movie.

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