Cost of making ‘Hobbit’ movies up to $745 million

Associated Press

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The movie trilogy “The Hobbit” has so far cost nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars to make as the epic continues to set new benchmarks for studio spending.

Financial documents filed this month in New Zealand, where the three movies are being made, show production costs through March had reached 934 million New Zealand dollars ($745 million).

The figures include filming and digital effects completed over several years but not the final eight months of production costs leading up to the scheduled December release of the final movie. It’s not clear from the documents whether worldwide marketing and distribution costs are included.

Warner Bros., which is making the movies, on Tuesday declined to answer questions about the costs: “We don’t comment on production budgets,” wrote Candice McDonough, a senior vice president at New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Entertainment, in an email.

The cost eclipses previous records for film productions. On a per-film basis, however, the movies are not the most expensive ever made. At least not yet.

Box Office Mojo and Guinness World Records estimate that record goes to “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” which cost about $300 million to make.

Box Office Mojo estimates the first two Hobbit movies took in a combined $1.98 billion at the box office.

The financial documents filed in New Zealand provide an unusually detailed account of the costs involved in a big Hollywood production. Typically, studios provide only vague estimates and have been accused of both underestimating and overestimating costs as it suits them for publicity purposes.

But in New Zealand, Warner Bros. set up a wholly-owned company to handle the trilogy, which has filed regular financial reports that are publicly available.

The latest documents show the production received $122 million from New Zealand taxpayers through an incentive scheme designed to attract big budget movies to the country. Such schemes are common in U.S. states and countries that compete for movies.

Trilogy director Peter Jackson has been promoting the anticipated release of “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” on social media, putting up images of movie posters on his Facebook page. “We’re getting closer now,” he wrote in a post last month.

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