Plenty of people have questioned the decision to turn J.R.R. Tolkien’s relatively short novel The Hobbit into an epic, nearly nine-hour trilogy. And now detractors have another thing to raise their eyebrows about: It turns out those Hobbit movies are really fucking expensive. According to The Associated Press, the franchise has already cost $745 million dollars, which is a whole lot of Lembas bread.
That number is remarkable not only because it’s so large, but also because it’s so exact. Hollywood studios are notoriously secretive about production costs and tend to release vague estimations that can be easily underreported or exaggerated for publicity’s sake. But for its Hobbit trilogy, Warner Bros. set up a wholly owned company in New Zealand—and since that company filed regular financial reports with its local government, detailed production costs are publicly available.
That $745 million figure includes filming and digital effects completed through March 2014, but not the final eight months of production costs leading up to the December 17 premiere of The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies. Warner Bros. declined to comment on the report, and it’s unclear if the massive figure includes worldwide marketing and distribution costs.
Also of interest: New Zealand taxpayers contributed $122 million to the production through an incentive scheme meant to attract big-budget films. Considering Peter Jackson’s previous Lord Of The Rings trilogy almost singlehandedly revitalized New Zealand’s tourism industry, that seems a small price to pay for another set of blockbusters that double as free advertising.
While The Hobbit’s costs as a whole dwarf previous records for film productions, the films are not the most expensive on an individual basis. Both Box Office Mojo and Guinness World Records estimate that Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End is the most expensive single film ever made, coming in at a whooping $300 million.
Still, when dealing with money on the massive scale of an international blockbuster, it’s important to keep some perspective. The first two Hobbit films took in a combined $1.98 billion at the box office, and the final film in the series could potentially attract an even bigger audience curious to see how the trilogy ends. So even with its super high production costs, Warner Bros. is still making enough profit to fill Smaug’s cave twice over.