Entertainment

The Hobbit movies cost up to $870 million to make

The movie trilogy The Hobbit has so far cost nearly three-quarters of a billion US dollars to make as the epic continues to set new benchmarks for studio spending.

Martin Freeman stars as <i>The Hobbit's</i> Bilbo Baggins.
Martin Freeman stars as The Hobbit's Bilbo Baggins. 

Financial documents filed this month in New Zealand, where the three movies have been made, show production costs through March had reached $NZ934 million ($A870 million or $US745 million).

Initially The Hobbit trilogy was predicted to cost about $560 million to make (that was before production on the final film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, had wrapped).

Peter Jackson's movie trilogy <i>The Hobbit</i> has so far cost $870 million to make.
Peter Jackson's movie trilogy The Hobbit has so far cost $870 million to make. Photo: AP

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.

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 $US300 million to make.

Box Office Mojo estimates the first two Hobbit movies took in a combined $US1.98 billion at the box office. The three Lord of the Rings films have taken just under $3 billion at the box office since 2001.

Weta animation supervisor David Clayton with a troll from the first <i>Hobbit</i> movie at Weta Cave, Wellington in New ...
Weta animation supervisor David Clayton with a troll from the first Hobbit movie at Weta Cave, Wellington in New Zealand. Photo: Ross Giblin

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 $US122 million from New Zealand taxpayers through an incentive scheme designed to attract big budget movies to the country. Such schemes are common in the United States and countries that compete for Hollywood movies, including Australia.

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.

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.

It's likely that the final installment will continue Jackson's Boxing Day box office record in Australia. The director holds the top five places on the chart after The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug recorded the second-highest opening in Australian history.

The only film to have topped the $5.46million that the second film in his Hobbit trilogy racked up is the first part, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which opened with $5.9 million in 2012.

Jackson's three Lord of the Rings films fill out the next three positions.

AP, with Karl Quinn