‘Madagascar 3’ is #1 at the box office for a second week in a row. Previews for the forth ‘Ice Age’ are in full force and it is set to premiere next month. The films combined have made over 3x their combined budget. Both of these films owe their successes to the lessons of ‘Shrek’, in different ways.
The first ‘Shrek’ film cost only $60 million dollars while making over $475m worldwide. The sequel cost more than twice that but also made twice that worldwide. ‘Shrek’ was the first of its kind. A digital animated pop culture infused feature with a huge cast of A-listers. The mistake here was not signing on the voice actor’s for more than one film. The cast budget swelled for the second. The budgets continued to rise for the next two installments as the box office takes started to drop. The budget for the spin-off ‘Puss in Boots’ came down to $130m, still much larger than the first film and becoming the 2nd lowest grossing of the series.
The ‘Madagascar’ series followed closely to ‘Shrek’ having as big of a cast. The budget swelled from $78m for the first to $150m for the second, but they made sure to bring that number down (if only $5m) for the 3rd installment foreseeing the drop in sales. So far the film is performing extremely well but has a very long way to go to match the others.
‘Ice Age’ is the smartest of the bunch. They casted a well known cast but one that is in no means on the same level as the other franchises. Ray Romano and company can not command the paycheck that Stiller or Myers can. The budgets for the films have yet to cross the $100m mark as well. In total the three cost $100m less than the first 3 ‘Shrek’ and ‘Madagascar’ films, while somehow making more money each time, especially in the foreign market. The films are simpler and usually cuter than the other franchises. The budget for the upcoming fourth film has not been released, but it’s safe to assume it will not be much more than the others.
If handled correctly a production company could make a film every three years and get a sizable return on their investment each and every time.