Spider-man didn't make a profit?


Anyway, I heard on the radio a couple weeks ago that Stan Lee was upset at the Spider-man movie because he didn’t get any money for it. The studio said Spidey didn’t make a profit!

$400 million! Anyone in the know have more info on this (if the story is accurate?)

I have heard that Stan Lee is currently engaged in litigation with the producers of the film (or the studio), because of a contractual obligation that grants him some cut or other of the final profits, due to his “creator” status, and some consultant work…

…and they claim that, for one reason or another, they cannot give him any money. I forget exactly why. Either they say there WERE no profits (yet) or that they have yet to total everything up from ticket sales, merchandising, DVD and video, overseas rentals, and so forth, no, no, the totals aren’t in yet, have your people call our people some other time.

…at least, that’s the impression I got.

According to imdb the movie cost $139,000,000 to make. The opening weekend in the US alone it made $114,844,116
There are a lot of currencies here I can’t make sense of, but it looks like it made a hell of a lot more than it cost to make http://www.imdb.com/Business?0145487

Hollywood movies are famous for not earning profits in accounting terms, because the studios charge all sorts of overhead costs to each production. So the “net” on most movies is negative or zero.

On the other hand, absolutely everyone in Hollywood knows about this little dodge, which is why anyone who has the clout makes deals based on the gross (total receipts) and not the fictional net.

If Stan Lee and his lawyers didn’t know this … well, it’s pretty much their own damn fault. This little factoid so well-known in Hollywood that it appears in kids’ animated TV shows, for crying out loud. (“Forget about the net! The net is fantasy!” - Dot Warner, Animaniacs)

Article here:


It’s interesting to note that his beef is with Marvel Entertainment, though, and not Sony. That may help him out, since it’s probably harder for Marvel to make the profits disappear than Sony (since Marvel probably doesn’t have much in the way of overhead.)

IIRC, the something similar happened to the author of Forrest Gump at Paramount and the writers of Alien at Fox.

I believe Art Buchwald got into a similar bruhaha with Coming to America.

Funny, the same thing happened to me this year around tax time. All that… er… overhead.

Movie accounting guarantees that no film ever officially makes a profit. The more money it makes, the more they charge on “interest costs” (the amount they would have earned if they invested the money at an insanely high interest rate). There’s also the rolling breakpoint, which evidently makes sure that the point where the film breaks even is never reached.

A percentage of the net profits ain’t worth a thing.

Hmmmm… I wonder how much money Titanic lost?



The most creative thing in Hollywood is accounting.

Q: Is the Film Industry the only corporate entity in the USA that’s allowed to always lose money and still not get taken down by the IRS? How are they shielded on this? Special accounting laws for films? I seem to recall that a business that never makes money is a hobby and should lose the ability to shelter income via expenses.

I would guess that the IRS doesn’t care because they do their auditing at the corporate entity level, not the individual production level. So all you need to make sure is that everything is on the proper side of the ledger companywide.

So, the company makes a profit, but no individual film does? Or only films where there are no points given, net, make a profit? For example, maybe Gigli and Kangaroo Jack make profits while Spiderman tanks, on paper?*
*These probably aren’t from the same studio, but who knows

Well, that and 90% of the revenues for a film come in, in the same year as the film was released (number out of my ass, but I assume it is high) while the expenses associated with a film may be spread out over years.

If I recall correctly, when Disney made Dinosaur they created a brand new animation campus, invested millions in computer software, scrapped it all, started again, etc.

These expenses, from the IRS point of view were spread out over almost a decade. But from the individual production point of view they all counted against Dinosaur, even though the production facilities will be reused, the computer software will be reused (for Dinotopia), etc.

The movie could have made $500 million and it wouldn’t have turned a profit . . . on paper. But the company would have had a banner year, because the expenses offsetting that gain all occurred in previous years.
[I’m not an expert in these matters, so I could have this all screwed up. But that is how I understand it.]

“The most creative thing in Hollywood is accounting.”


“According to imdb the movie cost $139,000,000 to make. The opening weekend in the US alone it made $114,844,116”

Yeah, but how much did it cost to run theatres & make a copy for each theatre? I assume you are quoting gross ticket revenues, not net profit.

Stan Lee is suing Marvel, not Sony. Lee’s contract with Marvel says they will pay him $1M a year plus 10% of the revenue (other than licensing fees) they receive from films based on Marvel characters. Lee claims that despite the fact that Marvel has been touting its increased profts over the last year based primarily on Spider-Man (and more recently on this summer’s three successful-to-varying-degrees films), they say they’ve received no money from the films which qualify under the 10% requirement.

This is related to typical Hollywood “accounting,” but since Marvel is the one required to make payment, not Sony (or the other studios involved), it’s removed from that. Marvel simply does not make movies – they own the rights to characters; they sell the rights to these characters to studios who then finance and make the films, but Marvel doesn’t actually create anything new in the movie-making process; in very general terms, the only thing Marvel needs to do its part of making a movie is a telephone, a pen, and a checking account to deposit the money it makes.

IMO, Marvel’s defense ultimately has to be that every penny Sony has paid them is a licensing fee and therefore not subject to the 10% requirement. The term “licensing fee,” IIRC, is not defined in the agreement, so it will ultimately be up to the Court to decide whether these funds are of that character. However, after an initial period of coolness between them when the suit was filed, Lee and Marvel seem to be on pretty good terms now – he’s continued to be their ambassador to the media, he was ubiquitous during the Hulk hype and is, I’m told, all over the special features on the Daredevil DVD as well as expeted to participate in special features on those yet to be released. I expect that a settlement is near.


IIRC Buchwald accused the makers of the film of plagiarizing his work.

It’s not really a corporate entity, but Major League Baseball is run in much the same way based on the testimony of Bud Selig before a Congressional committee.

Yes, but when the courts agreed with him the studio made the claim that they didn’t have to pay any percentage of the profits because they claimed “Coming to America” made no profit.

Not sure how that turned out.

The posters above gave good explanations about the weirdnesses of Hollywood accounting, but there were a few apples to oranges comparison along the way.

Film grosses are the money that theatergoers pay to theaters. The movie companies get only a share of that. While it’s true that they get an overwhelming share of the opening weekend grosses - as much as 90% at times - you can’t compare the grosses to the movie’s cost and get an accurate figure.

And there really are other costs to include. Marketing costs for big films runs into the tens of millions of dollars. One of my favorite sites Box Office Mojo gives both production costs and marketing costs for opening movies when it does its weekly totals.

Just making and shipping 3000 prints of the film to theaters can cost millions of dollars as well.

And sometimes the distributor of a film is not the same as the producer of a film, so the money from taking a film worldwide winds up in somebody else’s pockets.

Because of this and because of Hollywood’s baffling accounting, there is usually no way of comparing any films profits to its grosses no matter how large they are.

And in the Buchwald case, while plagiarism was at its heart, Paramount settled the case because any assessment of the damages Buchwald was owed would have required an independent accountant to go over its books and make its accounting public. This was the very last thing any film company would ever want.