Monday, November 9, 2009

Repeat after me - Avatar cost $230 million, NOT $500 million.

For the record, James Cameron's Avatar did not cost $500 million. The official budget is $230 million. The half-billion number comes from the actual production budget, the alleged $150 million marketing campaign, and $120 million worth of phantom dollars that were tossed in because $380 million isn't nearly as potent a number for Michael Cieply's otherwise solid New York Times article.

I've said this elsewhere, but I'm kinda surprised that the film only cost $230 million. Cameron has broken budget levels for his last three or four pictures (The Abyss is debatable... how much DID that one actually cost?). He finally fulfills his 15-years in the making project, theoretically revolutionizing the way we watch movies, becoming The Jazz Singer of our age, etc etc, and it still cost nearly $100 million less than Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End?

I'm not saying I don't believe the numbers, but I'm just baffled at the apparent tight budgeting from someone who usually breaks the bank. To be fair, Cameron's unintentional budget-busters (Titanic and The Abyss) had issues with water. And even if the budget is higher than reported, there's no one I'd trust more with Fox's money than Cameron. Maybe he's getting frugal with age, but I'm almost disappointed that the movie didn't cost half a billion dollars. But hey, at least he's made the most expensive non-sequel/non-franchise film in history, so the magic hasn't completely worn off.

Scott Mendelson

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