Did Avatar Really Cost $500 Million?

The New York Times hypothesizes that James Cameron's Avatar will cost half a billion dollars in the end. But Fox has a plan, in case the movie doesn't make Titanic numbers. Plus, find out what Rupert Murdoch thinks of Avatar.

James Cameron and his crew have repeatedly said that the budget for Avatar was $230 million, but the NYT guesstimatesthat after tallying up the marketing campaign and Cameron's own personal contributions, the movie's cost will be around $500 million.

That would make this the most expensive movie of all time — so much so that Rupert Murdoch, the News Corporation's chairman, was drawn to comment on the film (which he's watched, and was "excited and moved" by.) Murdoch expressed faith that the movie will be a success over the Chirstmas season. They'd better hope so. Of course, the Times article may be vastly exaggerating the marketing budget — especially since we only started seeing TV ads for the picture in the past couple weeks, including during Fox's own football broadcast.

But who loses money if Avatar dies a horrible death at the box office? The director himself — that's how much Cameron believes in it — or can stand to lose a few million.

In a further hedge, Mr. Cameron would give up part of his own participation in the film's returns if production costs exceed a specified level, according to those who were briefed on the film. If final production costs exceeded $300 million, for instance, Mr. Cameron would effectively defer much of his payout until the studio and others were compensated, despite his years of labor on the movie.

Still the studio isn't putting all its eggs in one basket. Fox is rolling out the big guns right after Avatar, just in case — and the "secret weapon"....

That would be "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel," set to open just a week after studio marketers get "Avatar" into theaters. It is the relatively safe sequel to a chipper family comedy that cost about $60 million and took in $217 million at the domestic box office when it was released two years ago.

Will we ever be rid of anthropomorphised furry characters? Apparently, no.