From the Wikipedia article of the film:

Budget: $550,000

Box office: $59.8 million

The ratio here is about 50x

Are there any other films with a higher ratio?

  • 1
    Blair Witch is often cited, with production budget of 600k, BO 250m. Mad Max budget about 250k, BO 100m, Paranormal Activity 230k, 195m, etc; Overall budgets were smaller in those days - look at the budgets of competing that films that year. Only The Shining (and Dressed to Kill was comparatively large) was huge, everybody else hovers around 1-3m or less. the-numbers.com/movie/budgets - is also worth looking at Aug 8 at 20:38
  • So Paranormal Activity has the largest ratio Aug 8 at 20:55
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    I'd like to point out that films like Blair Witch and Paranormal Actvity might have been inexpensive to make, but enjoyed marketing budgets of millions of dollars once they received distribution contracts and it became clear that they had 'legs'
    – Valorum
    Aug 9 at 18:28
  • I noted the advertising budgets, but felt I would be venturing too far in terms of a lengthy answer which i didn't have time to do . Aug 9 at 18:49

2 Answers 2


There are a few 'freaks' in the film industry, where films were made on a shoestring as festival films, but then managed to secure a cinematic release.

El Mariachi is the poster child for this. It had a combined budget of around $7000, most of which went on film stock and props, and went on to gain a theatrical box office of more than a million dollars (and subsequent video and DVD sales far in excess of this number).

That would make their box office-to-budget ration nearly 150x

  • For Paranormal Activity it is 848x. Aug 9 at 18:37
  • 2
    @EtackSxchange - Their budgets have never been official confirmed, which is why I hesitated to use them; theguardian.com/film/2009/nov/25/…. In fact, their supposedly low budgets may be part of their viral marketing campaigns. It cost more than a million dollars to reshoot the ending of Paranormal activity and a further five million to transfer it to a higher quality film and redo the sound. Should that be included in the marketing or the production budget?
    – Valorum
    Aug 9 at 18:40
  • I was part of a project (actually several come to think of it) that had a modest budget but the whole thing faltered before post. To get it over that (lengthy and expensive) hurdle, a huge amount was invested again; yet this part never got through to the marketing... Aug 9 at 18:49
  • 2
    @blobbymcblobby - I was reading an article the other day about festival films not being eligible for general release now unless they pay for line audio (e.g. for people with hearing aids), which adds a minimum of a few hundred thousand to the cost.
    – Valorum
    Aug 9 at 18:53
  • Sounds about right, think i read that too. Glad I'm not the one going round cap in hand, its that much harder these days... Aug 9 at 20:11

Two questions there.

At face value, Blair Witch is often cited with a good ratio, with production budget of 600k, box office of 250m; Mad Max budget about 250k, box office of 100m; Paranormal Activity 230k, box office 195m, etc.

If you are comparing to todays budgets, what we have now seems massively inflated, but is just what it costs to do things today.

Back then, overall budgets were much smaller in those days - look at the budgets of competing that films that year. Only The Shining (and Dressed to Kill was comparatively large too) was huge, everybody else hovers around 1-3m or less.

Several years later you had the big hit of Terminator, budget seems small at 6.5m, return was around 80m.

The success of the original made its sequel become a tentpole feature, and cost 100m to make, and had a return of 520m.

Like everything else, over time everything costs more.

Movies like Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity (PA originally filmed for 15k), in todays industry, were unusual in their success and are not common.

  • FYI the ratios will not be affected by inflation. Aug 8 at 20:58
  • @JasonPSallinger Because of a lack in units? Aug 8 at 20:59
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    Yeah, i was trying to formulate a sentence that said that but forgot - this was just grossly simplified. Likewise, budgets and returns - a lot more to it with domestic vs rest, advent of home video, etc ... Aug 8 at 20:59
  • @EtackSxchange Nothing to do with units. If we are saying the ratio is (Box office haul) / (Cost of production), then time is irrelevant. (well, I suppose it helps that there are no units, yes) Aug 8 at 21:09
  • 1
    @EtackSxchange No, that’s not what that word means.
    – Sneftel
    Aug 10 at 7:54

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