Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn spoke a bit this morning about the highly anticipated sequel Star Wars: Episode VII, but his comments were essentially confirming things we already know: the cast isn’t 100% set yet, principal photography hasn’t begun, George Lucas is consulting, and future Star Wars films could return to the May release date strategy. However, he also revealed a fascinating nugget with regards to the budgets of the new Star Wars movies. One might think that a movie as big as Episode VII would have a budget of epic proportions, but the number that Horn quoted is actually pretty in line with other recent tentpole films. More after the jump.
While speaking at Loyola (via Variety’s Marc Graser), Horn revealed that the budgets for the new Star Wars films will be “around $175 million to $200 million.” Horn is speaking not only about Episode VII, but also Episode VIII and IX as well as the in-development spinoff movies. Though that’s certainly not a small chunk of change, it’s a step down from John Carter’s $250 million and The Lone Ranger’s $215 million. Of course, those two films suffered production troubles and marked big losses for the Mouse House (as well as the ousting of then-chairman Rich Ross and Horn’s subsequent hiring), so maybe the studio is trying to stay a bit more conservative moving forward.
The number that Horn quoted is actually right in line with the recent string of Marvel Studios films. The Avengers clocked in at $220 million, Iron Man 3 had a $200 million budget, Thor: The Dark World had a $170 million budget, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier also came in at $170 million. Episode VII will probably more closely mirror the scale and scope of Avengers as opposed to the standalone sequels, so it’s possible we could see the number rise slightly above Horn’s $200 million cap, but it’s clear that the studio isn’t giving J.J. Abrams carte blanche just because it’s Star Wars. That being said, this will still be Abrams’ highest budget to date, and he made Star Trek Into Darkness look pretty damn epic with $190 million.
Everyone knows that Episode VII is going to make an insane amount of money, so once it dominates the box office of December 2015, it’s possible we could see an increase in budget for Episode VIII and IX while the standlone films remain closer to $175 million—just like Marvel’s strategy with Avengers movies vs. standalone stories.
But we’re still very early days on Episode VII so a lot can change in the interim. For now, though, Horn’s ballpark number gives us an idea of Disney’s Star Wars strategy moving forward.