Hard as it is to believe, after what seems like 19 endless years of false-starts and "Slowly Veering Lincoln Continental of Doom" jokes, we are less than one month away from seeing the fourth chapter of the Indiana Jones saga. The adventuresome archaeologist enters a far different Hollywood from the days when he first planted sunbeam-focusing scepters in secret map rooms, however; studio sash-tightening has required its makers to defer their fees in exchange for that venerable Hollywood trade-off, a piece (and in this case, a gigantic piece) of the back-end. The LAT breaks down Crystal Skull's financial model:
Paramount spent about $185 million to make the movie and will pay at least $150 million to market it worldwide. The studio will earn a distribution fee of 12.5% of the revenue it receives from the film's release in all media, including theaters, DVD and television.
"Crystal Skull" will have to generate around $400 million for Paramount for the studio to make its money back and earn its distribution fee. Only at that point will Lucas, Spielberg, Ford and smaller profit participants, including screenwriter David Koepp, begin collecting their portion.
Paramount will take 12.5 cents from every dollar thereafter, while Lucas and company will earn 87.5 cents.
In the event that "Crystal Skull" fails at the box office, this arrangement will leave the filmmakers and talent empty-handed. Paramount would lose part of its investment, but not as much as it would have under a conventional deal with top talent.
We take a moment to allow you to recover from any lightheadedness or shortness of breath you may have experienced upon reading the words "fails at the box office," as certainly nothing will prevent the second-most beloved film franchise of all time from ridding billions of Indy fans the world over of the Euros, pesos, and rubles weighing down their wallets since the announcement of Skull's global release date of May 22nd. Still, as perpetual Eeyore George Lucas explained, the inevitably disappointing movie "is not going to make much money for us in the end." Paramount should take heart, however, as anything short of 87.5% of 7 katrillion dollars barely registers as "much money" on the Lucasfilm ledger.