We're now two months away from the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the final film in The Hobbit trilogy and, very likely, the final Middle-earth movie (the Tolkien estate still owns the film rights to Middle-earth books like The Silmarillion, and they're not too happy with Hollywood these days) from Peter Jackson, who earned international acclaim, millions of dollars and 17 Oscars (including a record-tying 11 for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) for his Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
Though they've certainly made plenty of money -- the first two films have earned just shy of two billion dollars at the box office -- Jackson's Hobbit films have faced pleny of criticism, particularly for the decision to stretch what was originally a two-film adaptation into a three-film one. The story certainly feels stretched out to a lot of viewers, but it's hard to argue with box-office results. Warner Bros. anticipated making plenty of cash from these films -- and they have -- so they were happy to dish out plenty of cash to make the films happen. How much? Well, even if you're accustomed to reading about mega-budget movies, that total might surprise you.
According to financial documents filed in New Zealand this month, reported on by the Associated Press, the Hobbit trilogy cost $745 million as of March of this year. We don't know if that number includes the cost of marketing and distributing the films thus far, but it also doesn't include the post-production money that's been spent between March and now, or the marketing money that will be spent between now and the final film's December release. So, no matter how you slice it, this is a lot of money to spend on a film franchise.
To put that number in some context, the Lord of the Rings trilogy cost somewhere in the neighborhood (the final budget is disputed) of $300 million to make. According to this particular inflation calculator, that still adds up to less than $400 million today (if you calculate from 2003, when Return of the King was released). It's worth noting that we don't know exactly how much of that money (if any) went to marketing and distribution, and that most budget figures we see are estimates (though the Hobbit numbers are from actual financial documents filed in New Zealand, where the films are made). Plus, if you look at a film like The Avengers, which had an estimated budget of $220 million when it was released in 2012, you can see how a franchise could pile up a total cost of three-quarters of a billion dollars over the course of three movies.
So, yes, it's a massive amount of money, but it seems to be resulting in very robust box-office returns for Warner Bros. Whether the quality of the resulting films is up to your standards is something you'll have to settle yourself.
(Via The Playlist)