Since first opening up in American theatres in 1977, Star Wars has indisputably become one of the most famous movie series, and multimedia franchise in the known galaxy. It’s an immensely lucrative property, netting original creator, George Lucas, a monumental $4 billion when Disney bought his production company Lucasfilm in 2012. Now the franchise has shot up in value and is worth $70 billion, and recently had three new films all gross over a billion in the box office.
Being such an enormous moneymaker for Disney, as well as George Lucas before them, the financial circumstances in creating the Star Wars Universe will surprise you. Here are three surprising facts about the costs of creating Star Wars that every fan needs to know.
The Best Investment Hollywood Ever Made
According to most accounts, the first Star Wars movie had a budget of a measly $11 million in 1977, and when adjusted to inflation, only cost $45 million. This may sound like a lot, but in terms of what it returned, it’s a drop in the ocean. To compare, the biggest superhero blockbusters of the modern-day, such as the latest Avengers film, cost $356 million, and when again adjusted to inflation, only made around 30% more of the original Star Wars. In fact, when adjusting to today’s economy, only two Disney films beat out Star Wars, with one being Snow White, which Cashlady research has determined as the most popular Disney film of all time. Of course, this is only box office, cinema revenue, and doesn’t factor in the huge profits Star Wars made in the toy industry, video games and other licenses such as reality TV shows.
The Pay Wasn’t Great for Some
One way George Lucas managed to keep productions costs so low is that many of the top actors in the original weren’t paid as much as you would think. Mark Hamill was paid a decent for the time, $650,000, as well as a tiny percentage of the film’s profits. This was far and beyond the most significant outright payment for the film, which makes sense due to him being the lead character and most well-known actor at the time. Harrison Ford, on the other hand, only received $10,000 for the ten weeks of filming and didn’t have any royalties. Thankfully, he’s more than made up for it by charging $25 million upfront for one of the more recent films, The Force Awakens. He also had 0.5% of the films gross earning, giving him an additional of around $10 million. Hamill also received a significant pay boost for the force awakens, estimated to be at around $5 million.
The Special Effects Saved Money – and Pioneered the Future
One of the most defining features of the original Star Wars film was the groundbreaking technology and visual effects of the time. This can be accredited to the work of Industrial Light and Magic, a special effects studio founded by George Lucas specifically for his Star Wars production. By utilizing models and puppets, and even gum and tennis shoes, to create the spaceships and creatures that we strongly associate with the franchise, instead of more costly digital effects, it saved the production millions. The company was also responsible for the special effects in more recent movies such as Jurassic Park, Transformers, and the Harry Potter series. Additionally, Pixar started as an experimental branch of ILM, meaning that without them, and without Star Wars, our movie history would have looked extremely different.