Inside Move: Budgets apparently easy to compute

Wall St. Journal spills the beans on upcoming tentpoles

Three-hundred million dollars for a web-spinning superhero?

That figure is the upper end of the budget for Sony’s “Spider-Man 3,” according to this past weekend’s issue of the Wall Street Journal. It’s one of several surprisingly concrete numbers the newspaper offers about studio budgets.

In a front-page story arguing that special effects are the new A-list stars, the paper tosses out juicy figures on several tentpole pics: $225 million for Disney’s upcoming “Pirates of the Caribbean” vehicle, almost $250 million for “King Kong,” $261 million for “Superman Returns” and $250 million-$300 million for Spidey.

So how was the paper able to unearth info that can be guarded more fiercely than the crown jewels?

With so much outside money coming in from Wall Street — and so much coin leaving the studio for f/x shops — it simply may be harder to keep these dollar amounts a secret. A zealous reporter — or a jealous rival studio — can easily do the math. And, in some cases, studios may be getting more boastful.

Bruce Orwall, the WSJ’s L.A. bureau chief and the story’s editor, declined to say whether the paper found execs willing to talk about their own budgets; he would say only, “We’re confident in the accuracy of the numbers.”

But as the article notes, these days splashy f/x are what get auds into theaters. So a high pricetag might be just the signal a studio wants to send.

Studios might want to be careful what they brag about, however: History shows that when there’s easier access to money, there’s also an increase in bloated, mediocre pictures.

The Wall Street Journal didn’t note that phenomenon, but you can bet Wall Street investors could soon be very aware of it.

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