The scale of modern blockbuster moviemaking is hard to wrap our heads around – especially when we see the numbers on the checks movie studios are writing and cashing before and after movies hit theaters. Avengers: Infinity War hit theaters last week and in just five days made it to a domestic take of $305.9 million according to the Hollywood Reporter. That ties it with Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the fastest movie to make it to that marker. It’s made even more around the world, but let’s step back a second.
When you get done counting the bills up for Infinity War‘s domestic take alone, it hasn’t even broken even yet. The Wall Street Journal reported in April that the movie’s budget was “close to $300 million.”
Sounds like they’re in the black, right? But that’s just the budget of the movie. The marketing budget is usually half again the cost of the movie. Infinity War is everywhere, so it’s easy to believe Marvel has spent $150 million on marketing the movie. It’s safe to assume Marvel has spent upwards of $450 million on Infinity War alone, and that tracks with the estimated $1 billion WSJ is saying Marvel has spent on the combined budgets of Infinity War and Avengers 4.
Except, even then, people are watching this movie in theaters, and theaters have to make money to stay open. There are a lot of factors that determine the cut theaters get, including expected take, expected run length, the country it’s playing in, how long it’s been out, so the numbers I’m about to offer are purely guesswork napkin math. With that in mind, the theater’s cut on that $300-million number could be anywhere from 10 to 40%, meaning that the domestic take for Avengers: Infinity War is closer to $250 million or maybe even less. Even a high-demand movie like The Last Jedi, which is going to guarantee a lot of people buying a lot of candy and popcorn, ends up with a pretty significant cut going to theaters. WSJ reported (via Deadline) that Disney was asking for a 65% cut of ticket sales along with a four-week hold on all screens the movie was showing on.
So now, instead of talking about a $300 million movie making $300 million, we’re looking at something more like a $450 million movie making $250 million.
I wouldn’t shed any tears for Marvel, though, because those box office numbers are purely domestic. Abroad, the movie is already racing past $500 million, and analysts are expecting it to pass $1 billion before the movie has even been out for two weeks. Marvel has indeed made another money-printing movie to match its last 18 movies.
So why break this down?
Movie studios like to talk about how much money the films are grossing, and these numbers are so far out of the reach of the everyday moviegoer that they can sound absolutely staggering, but for a movie to break even means a lot of butts in a lot of seats eating a lot of overpriced Sour Patch Kids. Even the fastest-selling movie ever is still, even as it breaks one record after another, just barely starting to make it out of the red and into the black.
Have you already seen Avengers: Infinity War? Were you surprised when [REDACTED] was [REDACTED] by [REDACTED]? If you’re already full-up on Avengers, you can start looking forward to Fox’s Deadpool 2 hitting theaters on May 17 and Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and the Wasp on July 6.