So Disney’s planned Lone Ranger film has been through the budgetary ringer. Originally, It was slated to be about 250 million, not including marketing, then it was shut down. Then it was negotiated down to 215 million and back on. Now it is being reported that the budget has soared back up to 250 million, and it is weeks behind schedule. This has to stop. Yes I am well aware that Johnny Depp is typically a franchise cash cow and Disney still wants it “new Pirates” franchise, but you have to stop and think about at what cost.
John Carter after production delays and marketing had a budget of 300 million it has been widely reported and at that rate, you are ensuring that unless your movie is an far and away phenomenon, you aren’t going to make the money back, much less any profit. I know that The Lone Ranger has some familiarity as it is an existing property, but the only people who know anything about TLR are probably living in nursing homes now. Not exactly the demo anyone cares about when making a film (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel notwithstanding). So basically it’s going to be a revisionist take on TLR most likely with Depp playing Native American Jack Sparrow. I wont deny that there is probably money to be made in that, but at that budget, you give yourself little room for error. Western films are ostensibly a very American film and they don’t play as well overseas as most broad epics where people speak in an old-timey accent. Making a western with a quarter of a billion ensures that you basically have to clear 350 million in the U.S. alone to even be worth all the effort.
I always go back to The Avengers, but the Avengers was produced on a budget of 220 million, but that was multiple superheroes from separate franchises coming together to make a superhero all-star film. It was guaranteed to make ALL of its money back and then some, but a Western? That’s a tall order. Lets also ask the question while we are at it: where is the money going? I am almost positive there will have been more major effects shots in Avengers than TLR and it was done cheaper. I know Depp commands a huge payday, but there really is no reason that this film can’t be made for 120-150. Any director or writer who claims otherwise is a hack. Yea, I’m talking about you Gore Verbinski. Great directors can do a lot with a little. Even though I know Prometheus got a lot of tax breaks bringing its cost down, it cost 125 million to produce and it was beautifully shot. Despite any misgivings I have with the film, I felt completely engrossed in the world that was built up and it all looked REAL. If you can’t figure out a way to make a Western adventure for less than 150 million, I already know how much CGI you are going to be relying on and I’m not interested. At least John Carter took place on another planet with tons of aliens. What is your excuse Lone Ranger?