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When searching for the budgets of the Star Wars movies, I found sources which claim a budget of about $300 million for The Force Awakens (TFA), the episode 1-3 movies had each a budget of about $115 million. This includes not the merchandising and advertisement cost, only the movie production cost.

Now I wonder, why was The Force Awakens so much more expensive than the Episode 1-3 movies?

  • Force Awakens used less CGI than Ep1-3, so there should be less cost in that case.
  • It introduced some new main actors, which all had a payment of less than $1 million, Carrie Fisher and Luke Hamill low seven figures and only Harrison Ford between 10-20 million, according to this source, so there should be no big difference in overall actors payments between 7 and Ep3.
  • Merchandising and advertising is not included in this budget, so they also do not count.
  • Ep3 was 10 years before TFA, so inflation or new cost intensive production techniques should be not a big issue here
  • Running time is 139 min (EP3) to 136 min (TFA), so also no issue...
  • Episode 3 was directed by George himself, I doubt that J.J. earned a lot more for his job at TFA
  • I am not sure about the extra cost because of 3-D, but i would not think that this makes such a big difference

So why is the production cost for the latest star wars movie not only higher than for the episode 1-3 movies, but even nearly 3 times more?

  • 1
    I'm not sure why you would think CGI, especially with advances in software and hardware, would be more expensive than building models and masks, and especially pay extras to perform. – Xavon_Wrentaile Jan 3 '17 at 3:36
  • I suspect Lucas was able to cut himself really good deals for ILM services since he basically owned every aspect of making the films. – Jason K Jan 16 '18 at 18:26
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This website tried to estimate the movies' costs:

After watching the reel, we have a general idea of what went into making the first film of the new trilogy. Here’s our breakdown* (based off previous Star Wars film cost research) –

  • Film licenses (Abu Dhabi, Iceland, Scotland, London) = $17,000,000
  • Real sets (X-Wings, Millenium Falcon) = $26,000,000
  • Real costumes (Chewbacca, R2-D2, C3-P0) = $18,000,000
  • Casting (namely the legacy cast: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher) = $40,000,000
  • Direct-production (cameras including IMAX and 35 mm, lighting, post-prod, catering) = $25,000,000
  • Creatives (director Abrams, producer Kennedy, writer Kasdan) = $30,000,000
  • Music (composer Williams, soundstage rental, orchestra) = $22,000,000
  • Other (insurance, marketing and promotion) = $23,000,000

TOTAL COSTS = $201,000,000

*only estimates and do not reflect the actual production’s costs. All amounts listed are USD.

But that was in the Summer of 2015.

Another website estimated the cost at $445 million, though that includes marketing costs:

Production - $200M

  • Sets = $26,000,000
  • Costumes = $21,000,000
  • Film licenses = $17,000,000
  • Equipment, film, catering, etc. = $25,000,000
  • Directors, composers, consultants = $48,000,000
  • Insurance, miscellaneous = $23,000,000

Actors Salaries - $40M

  • Harrison Ford made between $10M - $20M to reprise his role as Han Solo
  • Both Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher reportedly made a handsome “low seven-figure” salary
  • Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac both received offers in the “mid- to high-six figures”
  • And the newcomers to the Star Wars franchise, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley each made between $100,000-$300,000

Marketing - $223M

TFA really isn't that much more expensive than other major movies right now. And if you look at this chart, you'll note that investment has paid off. That's still true when you compare it to other movies.

  • Thank you for the answer, please allow me 3 comments (not meant badly): 1. I know the numbers you post in your last 2 sentence, but i am only interested in the comparison of the production cost (not revenue) of TFA and EP1-3 (not other major movies). 2. Assuming your sources are correct, which point(s) make the huge difference to ep3? If you can add that, i will accept your answer. 3. Whose source is wrong, mine, yours, both? I guess that is not answerable as long as there is no official statement from disney, but i find it interesting that the numbers differ by 100million, thats really a lot. – kl78 Jun 24 '16 at 20:33
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    @kl78 You'll never get "accurate" numbers due to "Hollywood accounting". And there's no point in comparing to movies ten years ago. TFA isn't competing with the prequels and wasn't made ten years ago, it was made recently and is competing with current blockbusters. – BCdotWEB Jun 24 '16 at 21:14
  • @kl78 What adds to the cost? Filming on actual locations and not in green studio boxes, motion capture, physical SFX, etc. TFA also was shown in IMAX, so that's probably an additional cost as well. But in the end, we can only guess. – BCdotWEB Jun 24 '16 at 21:19
  • And there's no point in comparing to movies ten years ago. Actually that is exaclty what my question is doing, why is there no point? Some things must have changed, so the costs are much higher today, i wanted to know why. Watching both movies one after the other, i cant see why there is such a gap, i am interested in that fact – kl78 Jun 24 '16 at 21:21

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