The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is about to hit theaters nationwide next Friday, and there have been a lot of rumors about this film’s cost that need to be addressed. Yes, it is part of a half-billion dollar plus expenditure from Warner Bros., but a lot of that is being offset by the New Zealand government making the unannounced number a bit cheaper. With five to six weeks still left in shooting the final part of the Peter Jackson-directed trilogy, we take a look at the cost that has been nailed down for round one.
An Unexpected Journey racked up $270 million in production value which will go down as the second most-expensive film in the history of cinema, right behind Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ($300 million.) Peter Jackson is a pretty thrifty guy and the original trilogy only cost about $94 million per outing, so what’s the deal? A lot of that is talent behind and in front of the camera, but also added in were better quality sets, costumes, and CGI work. As for why this first Hobbit movie strangely costs a lot more than the combined $270 million (est.) between There and Back Again and The Desolation of Smaug, chalk that up to getting everything setup in the region similar to how a pilot episode of a television series can milk a network dry.
Marketing budgets are much harder to nail down as studios do not exactly tend to showboat over how hard they are trying to brainwash the public into seeing their film. Thankfully, CNN figured it out in a piece they did on New Zealand’s use of the film to promote tourism in the region: $81.5 million. Only $69.5 million of that will ultimately come out of WB’s pocket as the nation will subsidize $12 million of that total amount. Naturally, the final number will change a bit based on the initially box office performance of An Unexpected Journey as the studio may opt to purchase a few more spots to drum up retention figures. Those watching the numbers should anticipate a very similar budget for the next two outings which will release in 2013 and 2014.
Warner Bros. likely is not too worried about the total cost of their investment as the studio is well aware that the previous three outings in the series grossed a staggering $2.9 billion. To break even this time around, they would need twice the production budget plus the marketing expenses. With the addition of 3D, a more receptive foreign box office, and higher domestic ticket prices, this seems like a pretty sound investment.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey releases on December 14.