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'Spider-Man 3' now tops list of most expensive movies but it's no 'Cleopatra'

Posted April 25, 2007 at 10:42 AM CDT

By Tim Briscoe

A lot of talk has been made lately of Spider-Man's black costume in the upcoming Spider-Man 3 movie, but for executives at Sony Pictures, his costume might as well be green. Green as in money.

With production costs totaling a reported $258 million, Spider-Man 3 has become the costliest movie ever made.

That is, if you believe the estimates. Hollywood studios aren't ones to open their accounting books to reveal the true numbers. Also, the figures below only represent the cost of a film's production. They does not include advertising costs which can sometimes exceed the production price tag.

First is the list of the top 10 most expensive films in terms of total dollars spent on production. The second list has numbers adjusted for inflation. It's from a 2006 Forbes article so Spider-Man 3 is not represented. You'll also notice a few discrepancies between these two lists. Again, these estimates can vary from source to source.

Most Expensive Films Ever (source: The Numbers)

  1. Spider-Man 3 (2007) - $258 million
  2. King Kong (2005) - $207 million
  3. Superman Returns (2006) - $204 million
  4. Spider-Man 2 (2004) - $200 million
  5. Titanic (1997) - $200 million
  6. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) - $180 million
  7. Rush Hour 3 (2007) - $180 million
  8. Waterworld (1995) - $175 million
  9. Wild Wild West (1999) - $175 million
  10. The Polar Express (2004) - $170 million
  11. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) - $170 million
  12. Van Helsing (2004) - $170 million

Most Expensive Films Ever, Adjusted for Inflation (in 2006 Dollars; source: Forbes)

  1. Cleopatra (1963) - $290.2 million
  2. Superman Returns (2006) - $268.5 million
  3. Titanic (1997) - $250.2 million
  4. Waterworld (1995) - $231.6 million
  5. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) - $223.1 million
  6. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) - $219.5 million
  7. Spider-Man 2 (2004) - $212.8 million
  8. King Kong (2005) - $212.3 million
  9. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) - $209.3 million
  10. Wild Wild West (1999) - $206.4 million

There are various reports that Spider-Man 3's final cost could possibly exceed $300 million and the total expense, including marketing, will be over $500 million.

Some say another film, 1968's War and Peace, should be called the most expensive with an estimated $560 cost (2005 dollars). The 373-minute film was produced in the former Soviet Union.

Trying to recapture the top spot he once had with Titanic, James Cameron's upcoming sci-fi film Avatar (probably coming in 2009) has a rumored budget of $300 million.

With all these outrageous expenditures, don't feel sorry for Hollywood. Through domestic and international box office, DVD sales, and merchandising, each of these films probably has been (or will be) profitable in the long run. (Well, perhaps with the exception of Waterworld.)

In other words, Spider-Man 3 will most likely end up in the black.

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