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FILM: SAW, the Indie August 12, 2008

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
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Am I the last to know that the Saw movies are indies?

Note: There’s a reason this isn’t a “Watching” post. I’ve never seen a Saw, and I never will. I really can’t stand the vast majority of horror movies. From the brief plot summaries of Saw I’ve heard from friends, there is no way in hell I would ever enjoy them.

So The Saw V trailer is out, which made me think: how much do these movies make anyway? I went to Box Office Mojo, and to my surprise they make a shitload! Ok, not much of a surprise, since they’ve made five of them so far. Each one, until IV, has made more than the previous, reaching about $160 million worldwide with III.

That’s a respectable sum for a major release. But what’s really interesting is the production budget, which is pocket change. The first Saw was made for an eye-popping $1.2 million, the next $4 million, the next $10 million. Figures for IV and V are unavailable, so the budget’s likely gone up, but logic would place them at under $20 million. Most of the increase probably arises from pay increases for the key actors, and the director for II, III and IV.

I say all this to give Hollywood — or, I supposed, Twisted Pictures — a pat on the back. One of the major problems with the movie industry today is that they spend too much on films, and often overspend. Movies are still incredibly popular, so there’s no reason why most movies shouldn’t be profitable. But Hollywood often overpays for stars and marketing, making it very hard to turn a profit. But the Saw pictures are smart. It keeps production costs low and hopes the movies’ inherent appeal will make the money. I’m sure they don’t overspend on marketing since the movie always comes out on Halloween, every year, making it an expected event for fans. It seems like, from the outside, an incredibly lean operation. Had they spent $30 to $50 million making each flick they’d be taking a risk. What if the movies eventually lose their appeal? But at current costs the audience could shrink in half and they’d still probably be alright.

Smart.

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