Radar Online, which purports to be the Spy of its time, except that now it has to go online, has an article by Kim Masters about the behind-the-scenes on SPIDER-MAN 3, which is now believed to be the most expensive movie ever made. Masters’ reportage on Hollywood is always top-grade, so you can take all this as well verified:
On the surface, Spider-Man 3 has all the ingredients of a box-office slam dunk—spectacular special effects, an obsessive fan base, and a roster of bankable stars. Moreover, its two previous installments have grossed $1.6 billion for the studio.
“The real danger is that it makes the $200 million movie seem not quite so bad. And the risks of that can be absolutely devastating.
“Even before filming began in January 2006, Sam Raimi promised to pull out all the stops for his third Spidey film (likely the last he’ll direct in the series). He wasn’t kidding. As production dragged on into late summer—it had been scheduled to conclude in June—stories about the project’s ballooning budget started popping up all over town. But in the end, even the most hyperbolic of observers may have underestimated the final tab. Industry insiders claim that Sony spent $350 million or more on production alone. With marketing and promotion factored in, the total price tag will approach half a billion dollars—positioning Spider-Man 3 as the most expensive movie of all time. (Cleopatra, the 1963 epic that has long held the title of priciest picture, had an inflation-adjusted budget of $290 million.)
As Masters points out, Spidey #’s excesses are part of a larger pattern:
To be fair, Sony is hardly the only studio spending big bucks on tent-pole projects. Shrek the Third blows into multiplexes two weeks after the new Spidey film, with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End right behind it. Next come the Fantastic Four sequel and Steve Carell’s Evan Almighty. Then, on Independence Day weekend, Transformers hits the screen.
None of these projects was cheap. Indeed, the third installment of Pirates may also sail past the $300 million mark. But in contrast to the Spider-Man series, the second Pirates film outperformed the original and grossed more than a billion dollars. (Spider-Man 2 took in $783 million—about $40 million less than its predecessor.)
No wonder everyone is looking at the lean, and very, very profitable 300 as the future of Hollywood:
Lesson No. 1: Sometimes it really is about what you put on the screen, and maybe you don’t need to put as much up there as you might think. As far as epic wannabes go, 300 is modest, yet audiences are eating it up. The nonstop action came from computers, the actors were, well, wooden, and still the trailers and commercials were mesmerizing. Sometimes a great visual is worth more than heavyweight actors and a legion of writers.