mvnc_starwars_woulditworktoday_770x472 Economics

Star Wars Episode 4: A New-er Hope – Would It Work Today?


A not so long time ago in this galaxy, we asked you to give us your directorial picks for a cast for the original Star Wars: A New Hope if it were made today.

You picked and we listened.  Here’s who you would have cast:

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Grand Moff Tarkin

Christoph Waltz

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Darth Vader

Liam Neeson

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C-3PO

Don Cheedle

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Obi-Wan Kenobi

Harrison Ford

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Luke Skywalker

Aaron Taylor-Johnson

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Princess Leia Organa

Jennifer Lawrence

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Han Solo

Benedict Cumberbatch

Impressive cast.  Now remember in an early post, we pointed out that in 1977 it only cost about $11 million dollars, which is about $40 million today.

Which leads to the question, is this a cast that you would choose given a budget constraint of $40 million dollars?

Simply, noIt is not likely this film could be made with the same budget in today’s dollars – Reason being Jennifer Lawrence made $10 million for the second Hunger Games – Catching Fire (including escalators, bonuses and salary).

Now, taking that into account and the fact this film would not be deemed a for-sure hit today (without the prior brand recognition obviously), one would expect that she would not command a full $10 million for this film. But for the sake of the argument, lets say due to the possibility of future movies, she accepts $6 million. That leaves us with $34 million for everyone else and production costs.

Will that work?  Slight chance.

JJ Abrams’ Star Trek: Into The Darkness cost $190 million to make. If they were going to try for a hit, then the costs of marketing and production including all of the special effects, they would be drive the cost higher.

So the budget constraint would not work. But lets say they made it and it cost about $200 million.

Now we must ask, would people turn up in the numbers that they did in 1977?

Well unfortunately, today there are fewer moviegoers. In the 1940’s the peak of movie viewership was near 80% of American households went every week, while today it is closer to 5%(1).  Perhaps the increase in population has influenced this change by making the percentage not as large, but viewership in a pure quantity number could be still large. What ever the case may be, it is still an important factor to think about.

So, less moviegoer’s means companies must spend more to get people into the movies as a result of low attendance. This has given birth to the huge advertising blitz campaigns we are all familiar with that start about two months before a movie is released.

If that was all of our worries than, we might say: okay, we can combat the low attendance trend with a great marketing campaign to generate a buzz about the movie.

Sadly, there were other factors in 1977 that lead to the success of the original film that are absent from today. A big glaring factor was the repeat moviegoer. VCR’s didn’t start gaining mass-market traction until 1975 (2). Even then it wasn’t until the 1980’s till they were really wide spread. This leads to a possible reason for a large amount of repeat moviegoers. Simply put, they didn’t have any other means to see the movie again, aside from seeing it again in the theater. This is different from today in that most people see it once in the theater and that’s it, or they might even wait until it is out to buy or rent using the increasing popular Redbox.

So what is the result?

Star Wars IV: A New Hope was released at the most opportune time to become the hit it was. Factors like costs, cultural preferences and technology gave way for a monster of movies.

But here is the rub, If Star Wars were made today, it would make tons of money. Big blockbusters films are the cream of the crop for the movie industry and have been considered as the cash cows. Pair that with the cast you choose, (JLaw alone would bring troves of people) and you get a hit (assuming the script will be the same).

So what do you think? Even with today’s current higher costs in the industry and assuming that there would be no fan base to pull from, could it be just as successful? Would the force drive this film to glory?

Or would the cast you picked turn down the movie? A Jedi mind trick might be enough to find out from JLaw what her feelings are on the matter at hand.  (Waves hand hoping for an interview).

Truth be told,  it still would be successful; however, not as successful as the original was.

(1) http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/07/the-6-graphs-you-need-to-see-to-understand-the-economics-of-awful-blockbuster-movies/277691/

 

(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Videocassette_recorder