BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Entertainment: Film
Front Page 
UK Politics 
TV and Radio 
New Media 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Monday, 21 May, 2001, 15:30 GMT 16:30 UK
The ups and downs of the blockbuster
Elizabth Taylor as Cleopatra
Cleopatra would have cost $300m to make today
Pearl Harbor may have one of the biggest film budgets of all-time - but, unlike many, it did not go over budget during filming.

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer has said that Pearl Harbor has kept to its original $135m (94m) estimate.

"It's coming in right on schedule and on budget," he said after filming finished last year.

That's unlike Titanic, which cost twice as much as expected.

It was initially budgeted at $100m - but that had doubled by the time filming had ended, mainly due to lengthy delays at the post-production stage.

George Lucas looks on as Jake Lloyd listens to R2D2
George Lucas' Star Wars creations continue to reap rich rewards
That made it the most expensive film ever - which did not matter because it also became the most successful film ever, taking $1,835,300,000 at box offices around the world.

That is double the takings of its nearest rival, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.

Big bill

But if costs are adjusted to take inflation into account, 1963's Cleopatra racked up the biggest bill of all time, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

Starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the 1963 movie cost $44 million at the time. That would be equivalent to more than $300m today.

1993's Jurassic Park reportedly had a promotion kitty of $68m alone - more than it actually cost to make.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic
Titanic doubled its initial budget
But it reaped almost $920m at international box offices as a result.

Other films that have broken through the $100m barrier include Armageddon ($140m), Mission: Impossible II ($125), Speed 2 ($110m) and Kevin Costner's ill-fated Waterworld ($175m).

Damp squib

While most big-money movies make money thanks to the hype alone, Waterworld has become known as one of the biggest flops in movie history.

Along with The Postman - another expensive Costner turkey - it dealt a blow to the previously bankable actor's career that he is only just recovering from.

It took $88m in the USA and only just broke even through worldwide sales.

But Cutthroat Island, starring Geena Davis and directed by her then husband Renny Harlin, has been listed as the biggest money-loser ever.

Tom Cruise in MI:2
Tom Cruise in MI:2, which cost $125m to make
Intended as a fairytale about a female pirate's quest to find hidden treasure on a secret island, it cost $92m to make, but took just $11m in the USA.

More recently, Town and Country has been almost universally panned and sunk almost as soon as it was released.

With a line-up including Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Charlton Heston, it cost $90m to make but has so far recouped just $5m of that at cinemas.


Studio bosses know that sequels and remakes are often more successful than untried ideas - and the recent Stateside success of The Mummy Returns has proved them right.

Costing $98m to make, it recently became the second-biggest opening film of all time when it came to American screens.

It took $70m in its first weekend - just behind the $72m that 1997's The Lost World: Jurassic Park collected.

Among the big-budget productions in the pipeline are The Matrix Reloaded ($127m), and Mark Whalberg and Helena Bonham Carter's Planet of the Apes ($100m).

Even if it gets a lukewarm reception from critics and cinema-goers, the swathes of publicity mean it is unlikely that Pearl Harbor will become a financial flop.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

11 May 01 | Film
Sequels queue up for summer
Links to more Film stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Film stories