Say what you will about George Lucas, but the man knows how to make money. Pictured above is a breakdown of the production budget for Star Wars: A New Hope, and as you can see it cost Fox and Lucas just $11 million to make back in 1977. When adjusting for inflation, the total cost to make the now legendary film today would be just $40 million. A stark contrast to movies like Avatar which cost $280 million to produce.
When looking at the budget, it’s not surprising to see that Sir Alec Guinness received a large share of the film’s revenues for his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi. Guinness was already an established actor with a strong resume behind him. What does raise an eyebrow however is the amount of cash that Harrison Ford garnered for portraying Han Solo. Ford received $1 million… more than what Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher combined. It’s an interesting factoid since it can be argued that both Hamill and Fisher had bigger roles. While Ford had starred in films like American Graffiti and Apocalypse Now, he certainly wasn’t a big name in Hollywood. Perhaps his relationship with Lucas made the difference for him.
Also of note is the fact that Lucas got John Williams to compose the soundtrack of the movie for just $100,000. This has to be considered a steal, even back in the 70′s. The score that Williams created is without question one of the most recognizable pieces of music out there. Even 40 years later, children can identify when Darth Vader is about to come into a scene just by hearing it.
Finally, when adjusting the $775,398,007 A New Hope made in both domestic and international releases for inflation, the film has raked in $3,082,922,515 in revenue. Subtracting the $40 million in adjusted production costs, this leaves a tidy profit of $3,042,922,515. That amount tops the $2,782,275,172 that Avatar brought in after spending its $280 million budget (those numbers aren’t adjusted, but they’re quite close to today). Perhaps James Cameron should take Lucas out to lunch to talk about how to make a blockbuster without breaking the bank.
Anatomy of Movies via io9