Can Martin Scorsese Justify A $200m Budget For His Upcoming Film?

Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese is undoubtedly one of the greatest living filmmakers. He has shown time and time again that he is able to make movies which put peoples backsides in theatre seats, whilst consistently delivering original and thought-provoking cinema. Successful filmmakers, like Martin Scorsese, can demand a larger budget from production studios, but at what point are budgets considered unjustifiable?

His last feature film, The Irishman (based on the book I heard you paint houses by Charles Brandt), released by Netflix had a production budget of a staggering $159 million, making it one of the most expensive, non-franchise, original movies of all time. According to Scorsese, it was the movies de-aging element which added a significant cost to the film as this affected how the film was shot, as well as adding significant amounts to the post-production budget. The fact that the film was shot over 117 different locations, most of which were non-studio based, probably didn’t help.

For his new upcoming movie, Killers of the Flow Moon, Scorsese is requesting a mind blowing amount of $200 million!

The movie is based on the book: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, which can be found here.

The book is an intriguing read in its own right. It is about the FBI investigation which was incited as a result of members of the Native American Osage tribe being murdered under mysterious circumstances in the 1920s, having oil under their land.

However, having read the book, it is unclear to see exactly why Scorsese needs such a large budget. The film is due to star both Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, which can’t be cheap in its own right, with both the actors salaries in the tens of millions of dollars, each. The film is a period piece, being set in 1920s Oklahoma. However, considering Paul Thomas Anderson was able to make There Will Be Blood, set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, on a budget of $25 million, this seems excessive. There is the possibility that Scorsese is planning to use de-ageing technology again, similar to that of The Irishman.

The project is currently attached to the film studio Paramount, who are allegedly seeking a streaming partner to share the production budget with. The question is will Netflix come to rescue another Scorsese project? Well, it depends if the studio believes that they can generate a profit from such a high budget.

Let’s consider the last 5 motion pictures by Scorsese (we have decided to exclude The Irishman from the list below, as Netflix does not release it’s “revenue” figures per individual films) with major theatrical releases:

YearTitleBudget ($)Box Office ($)
2006The Departed90,000,000291,500,000
2010Shutter Island80,000,000294,800,000
2011HugoCirca. 160,000,000185,800,000
2013The Wolf of Wall Street100,000,000392,000,000
2016SilenceCirca. 45,000,00023,700,000

With the exception of Silence, which made a significant loss, Scorsese has proved himself to a director who creates movies which can turn a strong profit. With DiCaprio on his side, he has made a strong profits exceeding $290m in his last 3 movies with him. The combination of a Scorsese, De Niro and DiCaprio movie may be enough to make a strong profit on a $200m movie.

Of course this depends on how the film is marketed and how the audience responds to the subject matter, but Scorsese is a household name. Though admittedly, it is difficult to tell how the studios will recuperate their money, especially once marketing and distribution costs are added to the $200m budget. Only time will tell.

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