‘Green Lantern’ Cost $300 Million, and You Know What That Means…

The Projector
No wonder he looks stressed. Warner Bros. Pictures
No wonder he looks stressed. Warner Bros. Pictures

Big summer movies cost a lot to make and market. That's not news. In fact, the only time you hear much about a movie's price tag is if it flops. Last summer's "Robin Hood" raised eyebrows because of its $237 million budget, especially after the film was perceived as a box office underperformer with a domestic haul of $105 million.  By comparison, "Avatar's" huge cost -- placed anywhere between $230 million and $500 million -- made folks at Fox nervous, but then James Cameron's movie became the biggest hit of all time, which took care of those worries. ("It is the most expensive film we've made," Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairman and C.E.O. of James Gianopulos later admitted to CNN, "but now, having the luxury of hindsight, it is money well spent, so I'm not concerned about it.") So if you're Warner Bros, you have to be worried that the world now knows that, reportedly, "Green Lantern" cost $300 million. That's not meant to be impressive; the pre-release discussion of a number that big is meant to signal that your movie is probably in trouble.

The New York Times (via The Playlist) recently did a profile piece on "Green Lantern" star Ryan Reynolds, and the angle of the piece was pretty much, "Boy, the studio is taking a huge risk on an action movie starring a guy you probably know from 'The Proposal.'" In the piece, producers and studio executives assured the reader that the movie's gonna be awesome and it won't be your typical comic book movie. (Trying to be enticing, producer and co-writer Greg Berlanti called "Green Lantern" "a space opera in the vein of 'Star Wars' with an Earthbound 'Top Gun' vibe." Uh, thanks?)

But the piece also mentioned that the studio spent around $300 million to produce and promote the film. And while the article says that sum is in line with other major films' budgets, what's not said is that nobody cares if, say, "The Dark Knight" (reported production budget of $185 million) or 2013's "Iron Man 3" cost that much. People want to see those films from established franchises. Nobody knows if anybody will go see "Green Lantern," no matter how much it cost.

That seems to have been an anxiety for Warners for a while. They radically shifted from a jokey initial trailer to a more conventional action-and-more-action follow-up trailer. And there were also the stories about the studio hiring a bunch of extra effects companies to make sure the movie got done in time. Pre-release strategies are about instilling confidence in the product about ready to be sold to the public. By comparison, Warners seems to be rushing frantically with "Green Lantern" to clog up all the holes so that the ship doesn't sink. Even Warner Bros. Pictures president Jeff Robinov sounded somewhat worried when he talked to the Times. "We're trying very hard to deliver," he said. "Yes, there is a lot at stake. But I try and frame these
things in terms of my own expectations. If you look at 'Batman Begins,'
it did about $370 million worldwide and got us to a sequel."

Yes, it's all about expectations. If the Reynolds experiment pays off and "Green Lantern" is huge, nobody will remember how much it cost to make. But if it tanks, we'll be hearing that $300 million figure over and over again the rest of the summer. The studio is offering the film in both 2D and 3D. They're probably praying everybody picks the latter option.

Storming the Box Office in His Jammies [The New York Times]