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‘The Lone Ranger’ has a Ballooning Budget

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Walt Disney Pictures

Gore Verbinski’s ‘The Lone Ranger‘ is a film that almost wasn’t. For a while – even with the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ director re-teaming with Johnny Depp for a franchise – it was deemed too expensive for Disney, and so they had to scale it back to get it to a $215 Million dollar budget.  Now it appears that the film has fallen behind schedule and the budget has grown to $250 Million.

This is being reported by The Hollywood Reporter, who quote insiders. Who those insiders are is anyone’s guess. Recently Disney got a new chairman after Rich Ross resigned, and part of the change in regime had to do with the failure of ‘John Carter.’  ‘Lone Ranger’ was greenlit under Ross’s run, so it’s possible that these stories are being floated to hurt the film. And it’s also possible they’re being floated because they’re true, or both.

Being seen as a troubled production or an expensive gamble can go either way; for every ‘John Carter’ there’s a ‘Titanic.’ And ultimately the audience decides what they want, at least if the buzz (which the studio helps create) is not toxic. Even then, if an audience wants a picture it can be bullet-proof – or at least that’s how we explain Tim Burton‘s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ making a billion dollars worldwide.

The main takeaway is that a modern blockbuster like this is budgeted for $200 Million dollars, which means that the studio doesn’t expect to make money through its domestic gross – if we take for granted that studios get about half of the film’s gross from its theatrical run (movie theaters get money too).  But this is the modern math with blockbusters: of this year’s summer crop so far only ‘The Avengers‘ will make money through its domestic release. And that was a phenomenon.

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