Where does a movie budget go

Beyond large sums, there are several factors that alter a film's budget .

Person holding a clapperboard

Several factors influence a movie’s budget. / Photo: Pexels

LatinAmerican Post| Juan Manuel Bacallado

Listen to this article

Leer en español: A dónde va el presupuesto de una película

For many, it may be easy to recognize which are the high or low budget films, but behind all this, there are several variables that interfere with the costs of recording and distribution, although it is never possible to know for sure the exact expenses or even the budget because the actors and other participants such as directors and producers prefer not to make public how much money they earn. What is possible is to know in a general way where the budget for a film is going.

Schuyler Moore, a leading entertainment lawyer and named by the Hollywood Reporter as one of the "100 Best Entertainment Lawyers", provided Forbes some details about movie budgets, in which he notes that when submitting a budget to film distributors, the size of the budget plays an important role, since the larger it is, the more distributors will pay for it regardless of the theme or the actors. Moore gives the following example: “If two identical movies were made with the same script and stars, and one was made for $ 50 million and the other for $ 10 million, the one that was made for $ 50 million would normally sell for five times more than the movie made for 10 million dollars. Really".


The script is essential for any film, it can be written from scratch or be the adaptation of a book, video game or even a play, but for this, it is necessary to pay copyright, which according to the BBC can be 500 thousand up to 2 million dollars in the case of a Best Seller, and of course, you also need a scriptwriter who can charge up to 2 million dollars if it is someone recognized within the industry.


In addition to organizing all the details of the film, the producer is also the one who presents the budget that according to Forbes, they tend to "inflate" by including "production rates" or "general costs" with the intention of offering a looser budget that meets the trend as noted by attorney Moore. However, this expense basically consists of the producer's fees. These are usually equivalent to approximately 10% of the total budget, although according to the BBC a recognized producer does not exceed 5 million dollars per film.

But beyond that, production costs do exist and there are many taking into account that they include: recording permits according to the place or space where the filming will be done, insurance policies, lights, police agents, rentals, travel, personnel and many other prop costs according to the BBC


A vital part of a good film is the director and therefore it is also a costly factor. According to the BBC, a major director can charge up to $ 10 million per film, although they could also receive a commission from the sales depending on the contract with the studio. Forbes notes that the requirement of the director influences the final budget, since if it is a director in the style of James Cameron, who looks for painstakingly perfect special effects which lead to numerous repetitions, this will cause the budget to increase. This increase is usually classified as contingency expenses that are added to the final budget, although it may not be spent, this contingency reaches up to 10% of the budget.


As noted before, actors prefer not to reveal how much money they earned for a movie, but there is a general knowledge that well-known actors charge between 10 and 20 million dollars in advance, although according to Forbes they may charge less if it is a film "low" budget. In addition, some actors prefer to collect a percentage of the box office earnings, although it is not very common unless there is a financial risk or the actor reduces the number that he intends to collect in advance. On the other hand, How Stuff Works says that large film studios prefer to play it safe and hire at least one famous actor to be the face of the film, which makes it easier to market.

It may interest you: The 5 movie actors who made the most money this 2020

Special effects

Now it is not necessary to travel and buy large simulation equipment because a green screen and many computers do “everything”. However, the use of these is not economical and in fact the special effects are the most expensive part of a film that depends on them, such as an animated film or a superhero flick. For this reason, the most expensive films in the history of cinema are made up of fantasy and fiction films such as Pirates of the Caribbean or The Avengers that exceed 300 million dollars in the budget for each one, and that is because, according to the BBC, ppecial effects expenses can reach and exceed 100 million dollars.


Nobody could imagine a movie without music or sound effects so it is necessary for any film. However, these costs are not that great compared to what has already been mentioned, according to the BBC a recognized singer can charge up to 1 million dollars for the rights to a song. On the other hand, you will also have to invest in soundtracks and foley artists to recreate in detail the sound effects that the camera cannot capture.

Promotion and Marketing

A film with a good script and renowned actors is useless if it does not appear anywhere. For this reason, films spend the equivalent of 50% of the budget in marketing and promotion expenses of their film through television and internet advertisements, billboards, reviews and any other creative means to make the film known before reaching the cinema, and secure profits. According to How Stuff Works review, this strategy is so important that films like X-Men: The Final Battle collected 52% of their earnings only in the first week at the cinema, in addition to other films such as The Avengers: End Game that spent more than 200 million dollars in promotion according to the newspaper La Información.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button