Behind The Scenes Interesting

The Cost of Star Wars

How much did Star Wars (1977) cost to make?

A quick Wikipedia search tells us that the budget was $11m.

But what if we wanted to dig a little deeper?

Browsing an old bookstore, I came across Joel Finler’s The Hollywood Story which reprinted a breakdown of the Star Wars budget.

This in itself was reprinted from David Pirie’s Anatomy of the Movies, which in turn was presuambly sourced from a 20th Century Fox or Lucasfilm financial statement.

It is worth noting that these figures would have been from 1980 – before the dollars from home video and merchandising really began to flow.

[Click here for a larger version]

There are a few things that stand out:

  1. The Cost of the Visual Effects: Star Wars was effectively the birth of the modern visual effects industry and this can be seen by the unusually high budget for the ‘special effects and models of spaceships and robots’.
  2. The Transport and Tunisia Location Costs: The $700,000 it took to take the film to the North African desert paid off as early on in the film it gave it a sense of real world scope.
  3. World Wide Box Office Receipts: When this statement was published the figure of $510m was pretty spectacular, overtaking Jaws (1975) which ushered in the blockbuster era with $470m. Spielberg would regain the all-time box office crown with E.T. (1982) record-breaking $792m.
  4. The Negative Cost: When budgets are often quoted in the mainstream press, the figure usually being discussed its what’s called a ‘negative cost’ – the price it took to produce the finished negative of the movie. Here it was $11m, which actually tallies with the Wikipedia figure.
  5. Prints and Advertsing: This is the combined cost of producing the film prints, shipping them to cinemas around the world and then marketing the fact that the film is showing (outdoor posters, television spots etc). Traditionally the global profits are split 50/50 between studio and exhibitor, although it can vary. The typical exhibitor’s share in the US is split 45 to 55% and in the Rest of the World 55 to 65%. UK exhibitors often keep an unusually high amount, averaging around 65 to 70%. In the case of Star Wars the $510m was carved up between exhibitors ($260m) and the studio ($250m).
  6. Percentage Points: Fox, Lucasfilm and various actors accepted percentage points of the final profits. Fox took %60 ($88.5m) and the producers took %40 ($59m). Of that producer share several actors got unexpected bonuses. Chief among them was Alec Guinness (%2.75 or $3.3m), Mark Hamill (%0.25 or $368,750), Carrie Fisher (%0.25 or $368,750) and Harrison Ford (%0.33 or $1m), set workers (%0.5 or $73,750) and office workers (%0.02 or $$7,375)

As of 2008, the overall box office revenue generated by the six Star Wars films is around $4.41 billion.

Only the Harry Potter and James Bond franchises have grossed more.

Aside from making George Lucas a lot of money, their other creative legacy is the creation of ILM, the company founded to create the visual effects for the movies.

For example, the opening shot of Star Wars took eight months and Lucas wanted people who could use the power of computers to help make the process easier.

Lucas hired Ed Catmull, who was in charge of the computer division at Lucasfilm and Alvy Ray Smith, who became head of the graphics project there.

When Lucas sold this computer graphics division to Steve Jobs in 1986, the former Apple boss (who would eventually return in 1997) renamed the company Pixar.

It would eventually go on to make animation history with a series of pioneering short films, Toy Story (1995) and a series of Oscar-winning and box office triumphs.

But for more on that, story check out the history of Pixar.

> Star Wars at Wikipedia
> Skillset breakdown of film finances

DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 12th September 2011


Star Wars Trilogy: Episodes I, II and III (20th Century Fox Home Ent.): All six Star Wars films are being released today on Blu-ray with both trilogies are being made available as individual box sets (around £33 each) as well as the Complete Saga (around £60). Despite the controversy over some alterations which George Lucas has made to the films, I would recommend getting the first trilogy, which is still a landmark in sci-fi filmmaking. [Buy it on Blu-ray] [More details here]

Sunrise (Eureka Entertainment): A re-release of tis F.W. Murnau’s landmark 1927 silent classic, features contains two versions of the film. The previously released Movietone version and an alternate version of the film, mastered from a high quality print found in the Czech Republic. The tale of tale of a married peasant couple (George O Brien and Janet Gaynor) threatened by a seductress from the city (Margaret Livingston) was an important milestone of film expressionism and quickly became a classic. [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD]

Renoir Collection (Studio Canal): A DVD set featuring six of the French director’s greatest films which includes: La Grande Illusion (1937), La Bete Humaine (1938), La Marsellaise (1938), Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier (1959), Dejeuner Sur Herbe (1959) and Le Caporal Epingle (1962). One of the pioneering directors in world cinema, his intricate mastery of the form led to him influencing a generation of directors including Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Orson Welles, Luchino Visconti and Satyajit Ray. [Buy the DVD]

Point Break (Warner Home Video): Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 action-thriller still holds up well, with the adrenaline-fuelled old school action seeming fresh in the current era of CGI overkill. When an FBI agent (Keanu Reeves) tries to infiltrate a group of surfers in order to solve a string of bank robberies, he’s drawn deep into the world of their charismatic leader (Patrick Swayze). [Buy it on Blu-ray / Buy the DVD]

Bobby Fischer Against the World (Dogwoof): Documentary about the rise and fall of the legendary American chess player and his 1972 match with Boris Spassky. Directed by Liz Garbus it explores Fischer’s rapid rise to national fame and the political significance of his clash with the Russian which attracted global media coverage as a proxy battle in the Cold War era. [Buy the DVD] [Interview with Liz Garbus]

N.B. Studio Canal are re-releasing a stream of Miramax titles but I’ll get into them in a separate post soon.


Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray]
City of God (Miramax) [Blu-ray]
Emma (Miramax) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Entourage: Season 7 (Warner Home Video/HBO) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Gone Baby Gone (Miramax) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Heavenly Creatures (Peccadillo Pictures) [Blu-ray / Remastered]
How I Ended This Summer (New Wave Films) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Incendies (Trinity) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Insidious (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Julia’s Eyes (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Mr. Nobody (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Shaolin (Cine-Asia) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Star Wars: The Complete Saga (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Box Set]
Take Me Home Tonight (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Aviator (Miramax) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The English Patient (Miramax) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Others (Miramax) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Quiet American (Miramax) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Roommate (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Talented Mr Ripley (Miramax) [Blu-ray / Normal]
True Grit (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Vidal Sassoon – The Movie (Verve Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]

UK Cinema Releases for Friday 9th September 2011
The Best DVD & Blu-ray releases of 2010

Amusing Viral Video

Star Wars meets Drive

A YouTube user has cut a rather brilliant trailer mashup of Star Wars (1977) and Drive (2011), with Hans Solo in the role of Ryan Gosling’s Driver.

For reference, here is the official trailer for Drive:

Now, here is the Star Wars remix:

The film opens in the US on September 16th and in the UK a week later on the 23rd.

> IMDb
> The real Drive trailer

Amusing Viral Video

Star Wars vs The A-Team

This video mashup of the Star Wars series and The A-Team is A-grade stuff.

Notice the spot on use of fonts and footage.

YouTube user kalleanka71 has also done similar videos involving Airwolf and Magnum PI.

> More videos from kalleanka71 on YouTube
> Star Wars and The A-Team at Wikipedia

Interesting Viral Video

Everything is a Remix Part 2

Using archive clips and inventive graphics this video essay by Kirby Ferguson shows how different movies influence one another.

There is a particular focus on Avatar (2009), Star Wars (1977) and Kill Bill (2003/04).

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

By the way, notice the use of Clementine’s Loop at the beginning, a piece of music by Jon Brion which pops up in the first three films by Paul Thomas Anderson.

> Kirby Ferguson at Vimeo
> Everything is a Remix Part 1