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"Ripping its brain out is absolutely a good plan. I certainly dont have a better."
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August 05 2007

Serenity Worldwide Box Office more than Budget. According to Box Office Mojo, Production Budget was $39 million. So Domestic Total Gross: $25,514,517 + Foreign Total Gross: $14,935,769 = $40,450,286.

Here are the figures if you want to check my math:


Country Release
Date Total Gross / As Of
Australia 9/29/05 $2,427,169 12/28/05
Austria 11/25/05 $169,062 1/4/06
Belgium and Luxembourg 11/30/05 $68,698 12/22/05
Denmark 11/25/05 $84,382 1/19/06
Egypt 5/31/06 $5,962 6/13/06
Estonia 11/18/05 $13,177 Final
France and Algeria, Monaco, Morocco and Tunisia 10/19/05 $541,497 12/29/05
Germany 11/24/05 $1,221,745 2/1/06
Iceland 11/18/05 $36,765 Final
Italy 11/25/05 $107,531 12/12/05
Lebanon 1/12/06 $18,166 Final
Middle East + United Arab Emirates 11/30/05 $206,942 Final
Netherlands 11/17/05 $97,679 12/13/05
New Zealand 11/10/05 $224,726 12/29/05
Norway 12/2/05 $57,342 3/26/06
Pakistan 12/14/06 $14,403 1/29/07
Portugal and Angola 10/6/05 $221,620 11/27/05
Russia 10/13/05 $1,691,368 11/20/05
Russia - CIS 10/13/05 $1,580,822 10/30/05
Spain 10/21/05 $1,018,603 12/29/05
Sweden 11/25/05 $55,125 12/11/05
Switzerland 10/19/05 $27,573 12/11/05
Ukraine 10/13/05 $205,216 Final
United Kingdom and Ireland and Malta 10/7/05 $4,840,196 11/30/05


The Box Office numbers are Gross Receipts not Net Receipts. The information above does not support Serenity being in the black from Box Office receipts.

I am not sure what point you are trying to prove, but you are proving that the movie did NOT make a profit from the Box Office.
I'm not even sure now that I am showing that the Box Office Gross figures are more than Budget because

The difference between Box Office Mojo's foreign total figure and the individual added up totals is exactly $1,580,822 Russia - CIS. They then have another Russia figure 1,691,368. So unless the Real Russia figure is + 1,580,822 + 1,691,368 = $3,272,190. Maybe the Russia - CIS figures were replaced by the other Russia figure and that is why it is not added in their total.

I'm not trying to show profit. Serenity Worldwide Box Office more than Budget.

Even if you take out the Russia - CIS figure. Serenity was only $130,536 below Budget. It is entirely possible that that $130,536 has been made up since 2005 and not been posted on Box Office Mojo. The studio could be adding up film rental fees and ticket sales. The Can't Stop the Serenity screenings would have accounted for at least $23,500 in film rental fees. 47 screenings x $250 each x 2 (2006 + 2007) And Serenity keeps screening. It just had two midnight screenings this weekend. And there at least two more around the release of Serenity Collector's Edition.

[ edited by Anonymous1 on 2007-08-06 02:37 ]
I'm assuming that the term used here meant "more than budget" and not "profitable." The other possibility is that Joss misspoke -- easy to do when you're giving interviews in the middle of a maelstrom -- and he meant, as some suggested in the other thread, that the movie went into the black after box office, additional ticket sales, rentals, DVD sales, network licensing, etc. After all, the interviewer did ask "when all is said and done," and Joss may have simply answered too quickly.
It doesnt matter, Joss HIMSELF and I dont believe he misspoke, said the movie is in the BLACK, and I still cant believe that you all arent seeing that he said if this DVD does well, there MAY BE A SEQUEL. That should be on every message board, newsgroup, and forum post, if we REALLY want a sequel, BUY THE DVD, I preordered mine already, and my browncoat friends have also, and hell everyone I know is getting one for Christmas too :)
Oh dear. Look, TamaraC is right. The box office still has a (large) percentage taken off it by the theatres, plus UIP shave a percentage off the international gross. Serenity's reported $39m production budget also excludes marketing (and a lot more).

Result? Yay, Serenity lost something like $60m at the box office. It'll make it up on DVD eventually.
The box office still has a (large) percentage taken off it by the theatres.

I saw that brought up on the earlier thread, not sure by whom. In the U.S., at least, it's not true. The theaters (with an -er) make their money on concessions, unless there's a long run, which was certainly not the case with Serenity.

Please explain your math for the $60 mil. loss, because that's a new figure to me.

On average, the movie's distributor receives more than half of the revenue, with the remainder kept by the movie theater. The split varies from movie to movie, and the percentage for the distributor is generally higher in early weeks. Usually the distributor gets a percentage of the revenue after first deducting a "house allowance" or "house nut". It is also common that the distributor gets either a percentage of the gross revenue, or a higher percentage of the revenue after deducting the nut, whichever is larger. [1] [2].

Sorry, dreamlogic, that simply is not true. The theater (with an er) takes in close to 50% of all box office receipts and keeps them, in addition to the concessions.

[ edited by TamaraC on 2007-08-06 08:59 ]
TamaraC, I read the wiki, too, in case anything had changed since I actually worked at a theater in the 80s, then I read several other sources that confirmed that it's still the way it was in the old days. I can't be sure of what the deals are, neither can you, but theaters chains have to compete to acquire the hot movies and settle for the deals on the others, to acquire the hot movies. Serenity was probably in the latter camp, I think we can agree, which might mean that they got something more than the 5% or so theaters usually get on expected-to-be high grossing features in the first few weeks. They may have got a higher percentage. That's still not "large."
This must be a yearly thing.

Moving on.

It doesnt matter, Joss HIMSELF and I dont believe he misspoke, said the movie is in the BLACK, and I still cant believe that you all arent seeing that he said if this DVD does well, there MAY BE A SEQUEL.

Truthfully? In the five years that I've been posting here, I've lived through too many fan campaigns that failed to achieve anything. I feel somewhat burnout and jaded. So "Once more into the breach dear friends" isn't exactly resonating with me right now.
It's not a fan revival. It's a corporate revival on the basis of new money estimates.
So "Once more into the breach dear friends" isn't exactly resonating with me right now.

I don't mind if we close it up with English dead though ;-).

(kidding southern chums ;)

I'm assuming that the term used here meant "more than budget" and not "profitable."

See, that I can accept. If by "in the black" we assume "grossed more at the box office than I was given to spend" then I don't have a problem believing it (especially if TV deals are included) since it was very close anyway, even at the time. If we mean (and AFAIK this is the more widely accepted definition) "in profit" (i.e. "after all costs are considered, we have spare money, Woo Hoo !") then i'm going to need a lot more convincing.

If folk want to see the fulfilment of one narrow (IMO meaningless) definition of financial success as cause for celebration then you guys go for it, don't see what harm it causes.

... and I still cant believe that you all arent seeing that he said if this DVD does well, there MAY BE A SEQUEL.

Which is different to before how ? As Joss himself said, people aren't sitting in boardrooms waiting to see how it does, it's simply that if it does very well it's going to be hard to ignore. Well, sure, that's how companies work, if something unexpectedly starts to look like a chance to mint money, they're gonna sit up and take notice. That has always been true.

I'm gonna go ahead and buy the DVD, like I planned, and enjoy it, like I expect to and i'm not going to particularly consider that the sequel situation's changed any, cos to my mind it hasn't.
I'd love to all get along. But specific claims have been made, but not supported, that I don't believe, and I can't help but get very stubborn with that kind of thing. I'm really capable of admitting that I'm wrong though, presented with a persuasive weight of evidence. Go.
Which specific claims ? Be specific ;).

And are they claims that you would have believed two weeks ago (i.e. before Joss' single comment) based on the weight of evidence ? So where, now, does the weight of evidence lay ?
Oh, where to begin. I started with TamaraC's claim that 55% of Serenity's production budget was spent on marketing, advertising, and prints (I admit I inferred that, but she did not contest it in later comments). I suggested that that was called into question by the quote in Variety by the Universal executive saying that the marketing budget wasn't actually spent on the usual stuff, and that's why it failed. I don't recall any substantial refutation of that. Then I went into a lot of math and accounting stuff that may or may not have been right, but nobody has really challenged me on it.

Also, it's since occurred to me one that of my comments fits really well into another - if they were trying to minimize revenue to profit participants (duh, Fox) changing revenue into internal expenses in marketing might work especially well, and be later easily changed into a better profit picture. This is all arguable. But "the theaters are cutting the studios dead" is just pathetically wrong.

[ edited by dreamlogic on 2007-08-06 12:21 ]
I briefly worked for a British cinema chain in the 1990s. I certainly don't pretend to be an expert, but it is my understanding that the majority of British cinema exhibitors, a notable exception being the Odeon Group, use the so-called "nut" system to purchase films, a system imported from America, where it is the standard system of use.

The exhibitor retains the weekly box office gross until it has covered it overheads. 50% of the remaining gross goes to major distributors. For small independent films the percentage will be less. The distributor keeps 30% and print and advertising costs are also deducted. Anything that is left goes to the producer as profit. This can be as little as 2%, even for a very successful film.

As I understand it, the real profits come from DVD revenue.
I suggested that that was called into question by the quote in Variety by the Universal executive saying that the marketing budget wasn't actually spent on the usual stuff, and that's why it failed. I don't recall any substantial refutation of that.
(my emphasis)

Well, that's the only nit I feel in a position to pick and i'll do it in the most straightforward way I can.

He/she didn't say that, he/she said this:

"He was not persuading anyone who didn't have a vested interest," says one Universal marketing executive. "That's what mainstream marketing is for."

Personally, I don't think your inference is supported by that quote and is certainly open to interpretation (and, as before, i'll include the link for context) and I figured i'd made that pretty clear on the other thread (i'm similarly unconvinced by your take on it dreamlogic and I guess since you're making the positive assertion, the burden of proof's on your good self ;).

I don't know enough about film accountancy or cinema management to argue on the specifics of the other points (though I had always assumed, based on other articles by purported industry insiders, that the cinema took a varying percentage of the box-office receipts - i've read from 10-50% depending on nearness to release date).

(and is anyone else still having trouble with the site ? Getting Grr ... Aaarghs pretty much every time)

edited cos "financial accountancy" ? As brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department ;)

[ edited by Saje on 2007-08-06 13:58 ]

Please explain your math for the $60 mil. loss, because that's a new figure to me.

Serenity cost $39m to be made, it's reported. On an industry average, with marketing and other expenses, that figure will grow to $80m. That can be contested with Serenity, but it still had TV adverts on the premieres of Lost and The Simpsons, an international film festival premiere with nearly all the cast, 5 star hotel rooms, you get the picture.

So, let's say $80m give or take.

Serenity made $40m at the box office, but approximately half of that will be seen by Universal. That is how the industry works. It varies picture to picture, but 50% is a good average (it's normally about 55%).

So, Serenity made around $20m at theatres, and cost $80m to make and release. These figures can be tweaked down if you want, but you're going to struggle to make up a $60m loss.

Like I said, DVDs will (more than) make up for that figure. But given studios look at 3 times the production budget return on theatre to release to justify a sequel consideration, I'd hate to think people believe a sequel is likely. It's not. Joss has said the same thing before, many times, but those interviews are never mentioned.

Also, as for Tamara, I'm pretty sure she works in financing for (another) entertainment company.

[ edited by gossi on 2007-08-06 13:40 ]
Universal is still desperate for franchises. gossi is right in every way, I think, except the "3x budget return" rule. Very few films would ever meet that requirement in terms of gross revenue. Things like Star Wars might even have a problem with it.
Hmmm. Duel conversations. Over at the other thread I just posted this:

Show business accounting has always been...fluid. Definitions change according to what is best for the studios. For instance, as has been said, if someone has a cut of the profits, there will never be any profits. If they are telling Joss that the theatrical run made it to the black, I'm guessing that the definition of "theatrical" is a little different than most people are assuming...because...fluid.
The Box Office Mojo results don't seem to include DVD sales. I assume that the DVD sales are what pushed it into the black. I can't see buying another copy of Serenity on DVD just because it has "Collector's Edition" on the cover and a couple more interviews, though, when I already own a copy of the DVD. Hard-core collectors will want one, but that can't be a large market. I mean, all the best to Whedon, but there's no way that the sales of yet another Serenity DVD are going to be enough to push the movie into sequel territory if it wasn't there already (and it wasn't).
I have to say I'm a bit confused as to how the general figure of marketing costs raising the total cost of the film by another 55% above the film's production budget has become (just over) doubling Serenity's total cost, from $39 million to $80 million. And what I've heard about at least American theaters does indicate that they make little from the films themselves, making their profit from the concessions, hence the extortionist prices ($5.50 for a small popcorn?!). (Although - could it just be that the money received from the films is negated by operational expenses, making the profit margin dependant on the consession stand?) (Actually, at their mark-up, it seems as though the food and soda counter could pretty well cover expenses and profit...)

Those points aside, I do have to think that Joss meant "my film made more than I spent making it," unless the $39 million did include all marketing costs. It's a pity Joss is too busy with clipboardy projects to clarify all this for us... no, wait, maybe not so much ;)
gossi, that figure would be contested with any movie. That's 100% (and change) not 55%.
Studios do keep a bigger percentage of a movie box office for the first two weeks (usually), but theatres keep most after those two weeks. Like I say, it varies picture to picture. Even if we said Universal kept 100% of the box office (which NEVER EVER EVER HAPPENS), they still would have lost an 8 figure sum with the international marketing alone.

And The Dark Shape is correct. The 3 times rule I'm quoting is actually from Universal, but they don't always stick to it. That was their quoted target (in Variety) for Serenity from a Universal exec.

Personally, something I think everybody on this website can agree on: a direct 2 dvd project could work. If the budget is kept low enough, it'd make it's money back easily. However, having just seen BABYLON 5: THE LOST TALES (Jms's direct 2 dvd project), do I honestly think I want to see it done with Firefly? Not sure. The B5 thing very, very, very clearly shows they had no money for it. It's a poor reflection on the series, it costs almost as much as a full season boxset and is only 90 minutes long, and I can't see it finding a mass market. Unless I'm wrong.
If you follow the CW that a movie will gross 80% of its net from DVD and ppv sales and 20% on BO, then you still have a flick that probably brought in about $200 million when all was said and done. That should be tempting enough to go after a sequel if the special edition DVD adds a few more million to the till.
Dreamlogic, you misread my post on the other thread. I was never talking about marketing and other costs. I was talking about the normal industry figure of 55% of gross box office goes to the studio. If you refuse to believe that figure is the accepted norm, I can't do anything to convince you.
TamaraC, it seems that I misinterpreted your comment on the other thread, speaking for you, and I apologize for that. And I will also leave your beliefs about studio accounting between you and your God, except to suggest that you might want to talk to a theater owner sometime.

gossi, still explain the $80 mil.
Explain the $80 mil? Serenity's budget was $39m. Double it, as a quoted industry average, and you have production budget + marketing + distribution + expenses.

You can scale down the marketing budget for Serenity if you want, as we're purely speculating as to the budget, but I doubt it's much shy to make a difference. The film was translated to multiple lanuages, thousands of prints done (which costs multi millions in itself), the cast went worldwide promoting it, there were TV adverts, magazine adverts, web adverts, movie trailers.. None of that is free.

Anyway. Serenity will turn a profit with DVD, again, to reiterate that. If you want to know of a film budget going crazy, check this Variety article out.
The deal is this. Theaters make money on movies if they play longer. Week by week the take changes. On the first week of release a studio will likely get 70-80% the first weekend, and 5-10% less each successive weekend. (
This is what has led to the "opening weekend" push from studios. They don't care if the movie plays for months, they will have made 99% of their take in the first few weeks. The theaters make money after the first few weeks, when the percentage of the take is finally in their favor.

Applying this to Serenity, which wouldn't get the blockbuster percentage of 80%, you can see that the studio likely earned money as shown below. I'm sure the studio made money every weekend, but this is the general scenario in a movie's release. Usually a movie doesn't hit the 0% for the studio until at least 2 months after release, if ever.

Weekend BO Studio share Theater share
$10,086,680 7,060,676 3,026,004
$5,352,090 3,478,858.5 1,873,231.5
$2,443,870 1,466,322 977,548
$1,051,095 578,102.25 472,992.75
$321,860 160,930 160,930
$185,395 83,427.75 101,967.25
$95,880 38,352 57,528

$19,536,870 12,866,668.5(66%)6,670,201.5(34%)

Since this is for weekend BO only, you can expand to the full US box office take and say that the studio earned 66% of the total box office, which is $16,839,581.22. Expand that further (forgetting that UIP takes an extra bit off the top) and say that the studio earned $25,653,846.24 on Serenity box office worldwide.

Now even if you do not add any industry standard marketing and print costs at all, you still have the studio taking a $14 million hit on the production budget.

So in black and white, using only the production budget and theatrical gross, Serenity lost money. As shown in the CNN article above, I used industry standard weekly takes for each weekend. Now you can start arguing whether DVD, TV, Cable and other additional revenues made up that $14 million, and whether they also covered whatever millions Universal spent on marketing and prints.

But there is no denying that Serenity lost money in theatrical release.

That being said. The new dvd is a positive sign that Universal thinks they can make money off of Serenity. The only thing that they need to see now is that they can make even more by doing something new. And that's going to take a whole bunch of dvd sales.
Well, I may be out of touch, but I still think 70% to 80% to the studio for the first weeks is low. Even so, thanks for the careful, reasoned analysis, danregal.

I don't think doubling the production budget is a rule of thumb. I've heard of it, sure, but usually in connection with major crapstravaganzas that have merchandising tie-ins with McDonald's and are expected to make GDP numbers. You can't just throw out a statement like "Serenity lost $60m.," when we've never heard that before, and not expect some skepticism, gossi.

thousands of prints done (which costs multi millions in itself)

There are some little bits of the P&A numbers we can estimate ourselves. For instance, U.S. print costs were about 2,189 (theaters at widest release) X $2,000 per print = $4,378,000. Now you account for the rest.
Having just finished another round of Firefly episodes and movie viewing, I just want another sequel. I want to see what happens next. I have invested my heart into these characters and know that I am not alone. I only wish/pray/hope that the DVDs have magnified the customer base to the huge extent required for such an improbable result to occur. If the special edition is the final chapter in published Firefly entertainment, so be it. But more, please! Please?
Yeah, nice post danregal even if it's still speculation based on the usual situation rather than specifically 'Serenity's (unless you work for Universal I guess that can't be helped ;). Apparently though dl is better persuaded by speculation with numbers than the other kind. Nerd ;-). BTW, I was going with $1500 per print which obviously comes out lower (about $3.2 million). Also, are international prints just re-used US ones or are they extra ?

And does anyone know what the MPAA's fees amount to ? Percentage wise ?

I seem to remember reading at the time that UPI Oz was given about $1.5 million for marketing because I remember people complimenting them on a bang up job given the (relatively) small amount of cash.

(at the time I think I asked if that was Australian or US dollars)

Do we know any other marketing figures ? Total number of TV spots (even just in the US) and their cost ? Depending on the day of the week you can get a 5 star room in Edinburgh during July/August (i.e. start of the Edinburgh festival) for about 120 ($230 ish) per person. Anybody know about 4 colour printing costs for the posters ? Air-fares ?

(my personal suspicion is the total spent was a lot less than double the production budget but that's speculation, not fact)
I've seen that $2,000 per print figure all over the place, usually expressed as "as much as." However, here's source that says $1,000 to $1,200 per print. New York Times, no less.
Yeah, this reckons typically between "$1500 and $2000" so I thought i'd err low, give you "yay-sayers" a chance ;).
International prints go on top of that, depending on release dates. Some prints will have been reused. Additionally, because UIP opted to drop Serenity at the very-last-minute (if anybody remembers my outrage online at the time) they had already got prints and translation done in some areas which never saw release.

I don't think it's our place to try to figure out exactly what the budget was, because a) we can't be sure and b) I don't think it's relevant. Even if Serenity only cost $40m and not a single penny more, it still lost money on release. So, mute point.

DVDs will always push a project like this into the black -- you'd have to have a real big bomb not to make an overall profit. There's a forumla used in the motion picture industry which gives you a rough 10 year gross of a movie, and it's usually pretty accurate. I haven't done the crunching, but I'd imagine overall Serenity will make Universal and friends a shit load of money over that time. I doubt that will lead to a sequel, personally, but then I doubted we'd ever get rid of Tony Blair. (I even thought he'd meet me at the gates of Hell).
Joss says it is profitable. Why are we debating this? Most of us here would throw ourselves off a 10 story building if the man said "jump", so why is everyone doubting his knowledge of his own movie's finances?
Resolute, I think it is all fan wanking myself. And fans really do love all that wanking thing.
Resolute | August 07, 01:04 CET
Joss says it is profitable. Why are we debating this?

Mal Jaynestown
Why're you still arguing what's been decided?

So after all is said and done, was Serenity profitable? Do you consider it a success?

Joss Whedon (JW): It's a success to the studio or else we wouldn't be doing a special edition DVD. They actually admitted as much on paper, which you know studios are loathe to do, and that was actually from the theatrical. Theatrical was a disappointment, as everyone knows, but it did go into the black.

So give me hope for a Serenity II

JW: Hope for it probably rests with this DVD.

Joss wants to continue the 'verse. All the actors want to continue the 'verse.

Joss hasn't given up. Joss has hope. Gonna happen someday. Somehow.

I've got plasticy money. Serenity Collector's Editions for Christmas. Some are lucky enough to get Serenity in Disguise and Firefly Official Companion II too. Getting a bunch of Christmas shopping done early this year. 2005 it was right before Christmas and I had to pay the store to wrap and ship them.

Serenity sequel, sequel, Serenity set we can tour/have weddings/have shindigs at Universal Studios and where Firefly like episodes could be filmed for Straight to DVD and SciFi or USA Channel . Got my QMX Official Serenity Blueprints and lottery tickets.

[ edited by Anonymous1 on 2007-08-07 03:00 ]
Not to muddy the waters still further, but I don't think I see any mention of TV rights in here, and those are a major source of income for any movie. (Domestic and international combined not only often exceeding BO, but with virtually no overhead.) Those were being negotiated even before Serenity was out of general distribution and before the DVD sales began.

Perhaps Serenity didn't make its production budget at the theater, but it almost certainly did from BO plus TV rights. Maybe someone said it went into the black "before DVD sales" and someone else reinterpreted that as "theatrical receipts".
why is everyone doubting his knowledge of his own movie's finances?

Because Joss won't know the full financial position. He won't be told DVD sales figures. Studios don't tell people -- even the films directors -- that sort of thing.

I don't think anybody here is suggesting Serenity ain't profitable. I think people are sayin' it wasn't profitable at theatres, which is why there isn't a sequel.
Yeah, if Joss hadn't specifically said "theatrical" I wouldn't have as big a problem with it (i'm still not completely convinced of the profitability but it's more believable with everything else included, especially given that we don't know anything about the revenue from DVDs and so that claim doesn't contradict what we previously thought).

Resolute, I think it is all fan wanking myself. And fans really do love all that wanking thing.

Who doesn't, it's fun and I personally like hairy palms, they're soft and useful when doing the dishes ;-).

(technically it's not fan-wanking, which is about "correcting" something that doesn't make sense in a piece of fiction e.g. the different Klingon foreheads on Trek)

Most of us here would throw ourselves off a 10 story building if the man said "jump", so why is everyone doubting his knowledge of his own movie's finances?

Err, because that's only jokey-on-the-net true and not literally ? Because if there's anyone here that literally would jump off a building if Joss told them to then they're mentally ill and should seek help immediately.

I respect Joss, hell, I even like the guy (much, much more than I ever have anyone else i've never met ;) but i've never known anyone, no matter how kind and talented, that's infallible. If the cleverest person I ever met, someone i'd never known to be wrong before, told me something that flat out contradicted what i'd previously taken to be fact then i'd doubt them.

Not to muddy the waters still further, but I don't think I see any mention of TV rights in here, and those are a major source of income for any movie.

They were mentioned by several people on the other thread Wm54 (the one that, so some extent, inspired this one I suspect).
Not to prolong the agony of the red/black discussion, but...

Does anyone know how NetFlix rental revenue is figured?
Would it be based on the number of days that a copy is out?
No idea. Wouldn't just counting the number of rentals make more sense ? It's impossible to know whether the number of days rented means they've watched it a lot or the renter just had a night shift that week and therefore didn't get round to watching.

And either way, surely the revenue's the same ?

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