How Expensive Is It To Make A Movie How Expensive Is It To Make A Movie
Movies typically aren’t cheap to make, except for amatuer projects. Over time the cost of films has skyrocketed, although in the past decade YouTube has played a... How Expensive Is It To Make A Movie

Movies typically aren’t cheap to make, except for amatuer projects. Over time the cost of films has skyrocketed, although in the past decade YouTube has played a key role in the escalation of cheap home movies. Here’s a look at what it costs to invest in a major box office film compared with more down to earth options.

Big Budget Films

Even though most movies are a gamble since only a small percentage generate a return on investment, the winners often pay for the losses. At least that’s what big film studios bank on. In 2019 the global box office revenue for the film industry brought in $42.5 billion. That sounds like an awesome amount of money, except the cost of making major films is so high, only a handful actually make a profit.

The average cost to produce a major film from a state-of-the-art studio is about $65 million for just the movie. If you include distribution and marketing, the total will come closer to $100 million. The most expensive films cost nearly four times that much, as with the 2007 blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

Why Major Films Cost So Much

  • name actors attract attention and command high pay
  • producers and directors also receive lucrative compensation
  • professional production costs are about 25% of the budget
  • script and development account for 5% of expenses
  • special effects and music licensing can be costly
  • marketing and distribution can cost up to $50 million
  • sometimes local permits are needed for shooting in public
  • insurance costs

Independent Budget Films

The world of independent films deals with much tighter budgets. There have been plenty of respectable indie films that cost under $10 million. The 1991 film Slacker stands out as one of the most brilliant “home movies” on a minimal budget of $23,000. It turned around and generated box office revenue of over $1.2 million, which gives the entire indie film world hope that anything’s possible.

The reason the film didn’t cost much is because the focus was on dialogue among a group of young friends about social issues. It was full of humor as the spotlight kept shifting to different characters.

Alternative Visual Entertainment

Let’s say you’re a DIY filmmaker on a super limited budget and all you have is your existing smartphone to make movies. How would you make it interesting or exciting for the video-crazed internet community without draining your cash? Wouldn’t it be better to make cash while you produce your movie?

One idea is to make a short movie with your friends about competing for online prizes, such as with video games or the lotto. At Lottoland’s infographic, not only will you find ideas for online gaming activities, there’s interesting historical facts about the movie industry as well.

Minimalistic Approach

The script will practically write itself just by planning out some scenes on a storyboard. You don’t need expensive screenwriting software, just take a sheet of paper and use a pen to draw 3 columns and 3 rows. Suddenly you have a storyboard with 9 boxes.

Each box represents a movie scene, which should represent a short time frame of any length. If each box is a minute, then the movie will be 9 minutes.

Simply fill in each box with sketches or descriptions about what happens in the scene. It can actually be any number of boxes you want to draw with any amount of time frame for each. If you want to make it more like Hollywood, just write segments of dialogue and visual descriptions in short paragraphs with headings.

One of the keys to making a captivating home movie for the internet is to have a clear idea how the story flows from beginning to middle to end.

The beginning can be about friends discussing what they would do if they won a lottery and made stacks of cash. Perhaps invest in high-end movie equipment for your next flick? The middle can be about going to the website and talking about the competition. Then the ending could be about however the competition plays out. Boom, there’s your fun movie.


Making movies is expensive when stakes are high, but very affordable when you apply minimalism to imaginative ideas. Today everyone’s talking about how they wish they had more money. Why not make a fun movie that puts the dream to the test? Both the podcast revolution and online gaming are gaining in popularity, so have fun mixing winning ideas for your next movie.

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Jon Dingle Editor

A film journalist, writer and a filmmaker in business for over 20 years. I am passionate about movies, television series, music and online games.