Profits and “Return of the King”

Here are the opening paragraphs from my Tuesday National Post column about profits and the Oscar-lauded Return of the King:

Eleven Academy Awards for Return of the King. The fantasy epic is tied with the dreadful Titanic and the over-hyped Ben Hur for the most Oscars ever. It was, as director Steven Spielberg put it, a “sweep” for the third film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Here, however, is a question unanswered last Sunday night: Is Return of the King returning a profit?

The film’s studio backer, New Line Cinemas, has said that the trilogy’s three films were made simultaneously in New Zealand over a one-year period for US$330-million. A naive analysis might suggest that you could parcel out the costs one-third per movie, putting the break-even for Return of the King at $110-million.

Given current world-wide box office for the film of a little over one billion dollars, a seemingly straightforward conclusion would be that New Line Cinema’s Return of the King spreadsheet shows a net profit. After all, one billion dollars less one hundred million dollars still leaves $900-million for doughnuts and dry-cleaning.


  1. As always, Hollywood accounting is obscure. Considering the box office gross, admitted costs, and all licensing, home video, and so on — I’m sure New Line would be happy to do it all again.

  2. Agreed. New Line would be happy to do it again. But in the column I make two points: 1) first, studio accounting almost certainly still shows an RotK loss (largely for obscurantist reasons); and 2) the commonly-cited costs and studio revenue figures for RotK are wrong. The former is higher and the latter is actually lower.