Average Movie Budget

Average Movie Budget [How Much Does It Cost?]

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Table of contents

How much is the average movie budget? Well, when you create a film budget, there are a lot of factors that play a part. Such as the actor’s pay, location fees, and special effects. So, because of this, you could shoot the same film script on various budget ranges.

In addition, Hollywood movies are becoming more expensive to make. However, as an independent filmmaker, you can access affordable cameras, free editing software, and online resources. So you can adapt the budget based on your needs.

To help, we break down the average movie budget and look at some of the main factors that determine costs. We’ve also included movie examples and advice on funding your own film.

What Is the Average Movie Budget?

The average movie budget for Hollywood films is about $18 million. Of course, some have a low budget and others have a high budget. For example, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), had the highest budget in film history at $379m. 

Because of the wide range of budgets, it’s tough to have an exact figure on averages. It’s also important to note that this budget only includes the cost of producing the film. Marketing such as trailers, billboards, and advertising are not included in the film budget. 

So, the film budget is the total cost of making the film. This total budget includes the prep, filming, and all of the editing costs. Let’s look at all the factors that go into determining the budget of a movie as well as the wide variety of film budget ranges. 

How Much Does A Movie Cost To Make?

Lots of factors determine the budget of a movie. These include paying for the story rights, locations, transport, equipment, editor, and music. Some of these costs are the same for all films, although some elements determine the budget more than others.

Perhaps the most crucial decider of the budget is the film’s genre. Some genres cost more to make than others because of the production design and likely need for VFX. For example, the average budget for Adventure films is $76m, while Horror is $8m. 

The actors and above-the-line crew are the highest paid on a film set. So, a star actor can cost as much as cost half of the film budget, while star directors will also have high salaries. The producer will decide if these costs are worth it to market and sell the film. 

Lastly, art design and VFX are another major factor. For example, science fiction is one of the highest-cost genres because it needs a lot of sets, costumes, and visual effects to produce the film.

The film industry doesn’t have official budget tiers but this table should help serve as a general guide.

$0 – $1 millionLow Budget
$1 – $10 millionMedium Budget
$10 – $50 millionAverage Movie Budget
$50 – $100 millionHigh Budget
$100 millionHigh-end Budget
Average Movie Budget Table

Movie Budget Examples

To help explain the average movie budget, let’s break down the costs of several films. The examples below are all from films made in the last twenty years with no need to adjust for inflation. They also have a range of film budgets and have all had box office success.

1. Primer (2004) – $7,000

Primer is an independently financed low-budget film. It had a skeleton crew of five, with the director Shane Carruth producing, filming, editing, and composing the film. He also stars in the film with many actors played by friends and family.

The filmmakers shot on 16mm stock and had to storyboard every shot to make the most of the film. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, which led to a distribution deal, where it made more than $500,000 at the box office.

2. Get Out (2017) – $4.5 million

The directorial debut of Jordan Peele is both a comedy and horror film. The script has only a few locations, and filming took place in 23 days. In addition, there is a small cast with only a few in speaking roles. There is also no VFX helping to keep the budget low.

It received funding from an independent company that focuses on making horror films. Indie film companies are drawn to the horror genre because it is low-budget. Get Out was a commercial success, making $176 million at the US box office.

3. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) – $25 million

Next, we have a WW2 comedy by Wes Anderson with an average movie budget. The film has an all-star cast, extravagant art design, and special effects. Filming took ten weeks with locations throughout Germany where it qualified for a tax incentive. 

The film also received funding from major film studio 20th Century Fox. The Grand Budapest Hotel was a box success, making $59 million. One of the reasons was that the subject appealed to a large worldwide audience, including success within Germany. 

4. Dune (2021) – $165 million

Lastly, we have Dune, the first of a two-part novel adaptation. It’s a high-end science fiction film with a star director, composer, and actors. Filming took four months across Europe, requiring huge sets, 1200 VFX shots, and over 100 crew.

Warner Bros Pictures provided complete funding for this film. It also had a same-day streaming and theatrical release. Despite this, the film made $402 million at the box office. So, you can see how different budget ranges all have the potential to make a profit.

How To Create a Film Budget

Now you know that there is a range of film budgets but how do you decide your film budget? Well, if you’re a student or new filmmaker you will likely have a low budget. Still, you need to complete a script breakdown to find an estimate.

The script breakdown begins with listing all of your scenes, including the locations and actions of each scene. You then organize a basic shooting schedule to determine how many days for filming. The fewer days and fewer locations the lower the film budget. 

After the shooting schedule, you can list production costs such as equipment, props, costumes, and transport. Then, list the cast and crew production day rates. With all this information, you can now create an estimated film budget.

How To Fund a Movie

Now that you have a budget, you can start to find funding for your film. Low-budget films will rely on self-financing, private investments, crowd funding, and applying for grants.

Other ways to find funds include product placement and advertisements. You can also take advantage of tax incentives, these are incentives to encourage filmmakers to shoot in a state, city, or country. It’s common to use incentives to part-fund your film.

Average movie budgets will rely on other methods, such as pre-sale distribution. This method is when you sell to a distributor in advance for funds. High-end budget films will have a mix of funding methods, as well as financing directly from major film studios.

Average Movie Budget – Wrapping Up

The average movie budget can change dramatically from one film to the next. In addition, budgets are increasing not only with inflation but also as a result of Hollywood’s current trend in making major fantasy and sci-fi genre movies.

But the film budget doesn’t always determine the outcome. In fact, films with both low and high budgets can have similar success at the box office. What matters is that the story captures an audience and makes them want to see it in the cinema.

Author
Amy Clarke
Amy Clarke
Amy is a content writer at the Video Collective. She is a former script supervisor and writes about careers in the film industry. Follow her on Facebook.
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