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The Return on the Investment of the 10 Most Expensive Animated Films Ever Made

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | December 2, 2013 | Comments ()


olaf-frozen.jpg

Hoo, it was a heater at the box office this weekend, with not one but two films breaking the previous all-time record for highest grossing Thanksgiving weekend film. That feat was all the more impressive for Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which racked up $110 million in its second weekend, bringing its worldwide total now to nearly $600 million and putting it on track to be another $1 billion film. Meanwhile, the number two film, Frozen, also bested the previous record holder, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, with a massive $92 million over the holiday, and no wonder: It was a princess film that appealed to both boys and girls. With a $150 million production budget, a domestic gross that could end near $300 million, and a worldwide total that should double that, there’s likely to be a Frozen sequel in our future, which is not great news, I suppose. As my kid always says, “The second movies are never as good as the first, are they Daddy?”

Rarely.

The $150 million production budget on Frozen is nowhere near the record, although the lavish production budgets on these animated films do not always pay off. Or do they? Let’s look at the worldwide box office for the ten most expensive animated films ever made (with the usual caveats in place: Worldwide grosses do not take into account marketing cost, exhibitor takes, or revenue in DVD rentals and sales).

1. Tangled — $591 million in revenue on a $260 million production budget equals $331 million in profit.

2. Toy Story 3 — $1.06 billion in revenue on a $200 million production budget equals a $806 million profit.

3. Cars 2 — $559 million in revenue on a $200 million production budget equals a $359 million profit.

4. Brave — $538 million in revenue on a $185 million production budget equals a $353 million profit.

5. Wall-E —$521 million in revenue on a $180 million production budget equals $341 million profit.

6. Monsters and Aliens — $381 million in revenue on a $175 million production budget equals $206 million in profit.

7. Up — $731 million in revenue on a $175 million production budget equals $556 million in profit.

8. A Christmas Carol (2009) — $325 million in revenue on a $175 million production budget in $150 million in profit.

9. How to Train Your Dragon — $484 million in revenue on a $165 million production budget equals $319 million profit.

10. Wreck-It-Ralph — $471 million in revenue on a $165 million production budget equals $306 million profit.

———

I stand corrected. All ten of the most expensive animated films of all time have made tidy profits. The closest thing to a bomb was A Christmas Carol’s $150 million profit, although I expect that — as creepy as that movie looks — adds several millions in DVD and Digital sales each Christmas season. The lesson? Animated films are a good bet, unless they are Mars Needs Moms or Treasure Planet, both of which lost north of $85 million.

In other news, Jason Statham and James Franco combined forces for a disappointing $8.7 million over the holiday, as the Sylvester Stallone scripted Homefront landed at number five. I’m not sure what possessed the studio to release the movie now, because it doesn’t even work as decent counter-programming. Ads probably should’ve emphasized Winona Ryder’s presence more; they would’ve worked on me, at least. Meanwhile, Spike Lee’s Oldboy, which debuted on 583 screens, absolutely bombed, putting up only $1.2 million over the Thanksgiving weekend. It’s virtually assured never to make back its $30 million production budget.



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • Afferbeck

    Why are animated movies costing $200m? There's no need for locations or sets or costumes or props or camera men. What are the comparable expenses?

  • e jerry powell

    But really, did anyone expect a Sylvester Stallone script to set the box office on fire?

    Wait. Clearly the producers did.

  • Well, I thought it was obvious that they were going to have a Frozen sequel from the start. A) it's Disney, and B) Elsa is going to have to have her own story. Side Note: Dustin, I watched it with my young cousins, 8-year-old girls. They found Olaf amusing but preferred Sven the Reindeer. Maybe he was your son's favorite because of his many butt references? :)

  • space_oddity

    Will the bombing of Old Boy mean that Hollywood thinks twice about needless Americanized remaking of foreign films? I doubt it, but I hope it gives execs pause. Bursting with Schadenfreude right now.

  • e jerry powell

    What's the over/under on Oldboy even making wide release? It's still seventeen screens short. (It's actually running on three screens in Austin.)

  • Pants_are_a_must

    Meanwhile, "Arthur Christmas," the most adorable of all December animated movie fare, is nowhere near this list, and now I'm sad.

  • Pawesl

    You're sad cause it's not one of the most expensive animated movies ever made?

  • Pants_are_a_must

    No, I'm sad not a lot of people have seen it.

  • BWeaves

    So, I went to Netflix to put Frozen on my list, since I cannot be bothered to trek around the corner to my local theater. Do you know how many movies are named Frozen? At least 5 that you can get from Netflix that were released in the 21st century. And yet, The Butler had to change its name in case you mixed it up with a short silent film from 1916.

  • JJ

    Given how studios withhold additional cost information and provide vague budget numbers, I feel like these return on movie investment conversations may as well be put in terms of underpants:

    Phase 1: Compare worldwide grosses to production budgets
    Phase 2: ?
    Phase 3: Profit!

  • e jerry powell

    Except when it comes to paying the little people net points.

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