Time Magazine Says Avatar Cost Upwards of $200 Million - Updated!

March 20, 2009
Source: Time

James Cameron's Avatar

After more than a year of writing about James Cameron's Avatar, I think it's about time we get to see some actual footage. Cameron has been strategically planning when to debut the first trailer, not only so that the footage we see is completely finished, but so that it captures the interest of nearly everyone. Josh Quittner of Time Magazine was shown the very first footage from Avatar and seemed pretty much blown away. But one of the most interesting tidbits from his article pertains to the budget. "More than a thousand people have worked on it, at a cost in excess of $300 million, and it represents digital filmmaking's bleeding edge."

"I couldn't tell what was real and what was animated--even knowing that the 9-ft.-tall blue, dappled dude couldn't possibly be real," Quittner said about the footage from Avatar that he saw. "The scenes were so startling and absorbing that the following morning, I had the peculiar sensation of wanting to return there, as if Pandora were real." If that's the response that's coming from a writer for Time, than I know I'm probably going to be even more blown away than he was. And if that bit about the budget above still wasn't enough, then just keep on reading. "Spielberg predicts it will be the biggest 3-D live-action film ever."

According to IMDb, the most expensive film ever made was Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, with a reported $300 million budget. Although, I've heard that Spider-Man 3 pushed well beyond its reported $258 million budget upwards of $350 million. Of course, budgets like this are never officially reported, but if the first number we're hearing related to Avatar is already at $200 million, we could even hear higher amounts later on once it's finished. I'm not surprised that Avatar is already up that high, as Cameron has invested so much in both the technology and production and has been working on this for years.

Although I'm not a big supporter of 3-D right now, I've consistently said that it will be Cameron's Avatar that will not only change my mind, but show the world what 3-D filmmaking is truly capable of achieving. We've still got another 8 months to wait, but with early reports like this, I'm not worried at all. "One theory, [Cameron] says, is that 3-D viewing 'is so close to a real experience that it actually triggers memory creation in a way that 2-D viewing doesn't.' His own theory is that stereoscopic viewing uses more neurons. That's possible. After watching all that 3-D, I was a bit wiped out. I was also totally entertained."

Update: Time has since edited their article to say that the budget was $200 million and not the originally reported $300 million. We're guessing they made this change under pressure from the studio, though we've been told that it was simply an error on Josh's part and that it was supposed to be $200 million all along.

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I think his 3d will be more immersive than whatever's out right now. I don't think stills would do it justice. I think Cameron's waiting to show actual footage. The longer it takes him, the better.

Fuelbot on Mar 20, 2009


I can't help feeling they should have put $300 million and Cameron into Terminator \ Robotech \ Gundam or even Transformers, instead of something which sounds good while Cameron pitches it to you but will probably be a big blue cutsey alien featuring kids movie, with no recognisable or iconic characters featuring or being introduced. I just don't see how something which was written 'ages ago' and has never been done before would have the quality, originality and innovation in the looks, characters and story to bring enough people in to make it a financial success, when there are so many established IP's (eg Pirates, Watchmen, Transformers, X Men, FF4 etc) which struggle to pull the kind of numbers this really needs to. Ok, thats the negative stuff out the way..... This could be something which brings to cinema ideas, action and characters which are as influential NOW as films like The Abyss, Terminator and Aliens were in the 80's. A film which blows away everything from the last 10 years like Transformers, The Matrix, Speed Racer etc etc and delivers a blockbuster of mind numbingly amazing scale and quality. Me? I'll be there opening night with an open mind, and for cinema's sake i hope i had to book in advance and queue for ages to get in there, because if i didn't, you have to worry about the future of cinema and whether or not pioneers like Cameron will be able to get ambitious original projects off the ground, because this will need to do the numbers big time. Financial success isn't everything, but an original idea which is a $300 million flop in a struggling economy? Not what we need if we want to escape from endless remakes and by the numbers film making.

chris on Mar 20, 2009


It might be a good movie or it won't, a financial flop at the B.O it will be.

Ryderup on Mar 20, 2009


LOL you fucking idiots don't have a clue do you? This will be one of the biggest movies of all time. Cameron only does big.

Blake on Mar 20, 2009


Guys, James Cameron made Titanic, the highest grossing film of all time. All his movies are fucking awesome, have changed Hollywood to some degree and make shit loads of money. He was probably the greatest director of the 20th Century. If Watchmen can turn a profit, then this sure can. I'm pretty sure its going to blow people away. 3D is the next cinematic frontier, just as sound and colour were back in the day. If you'd seen My Bloody Valentine 3D, in 3D, you'd know the format is fucking awesome.

Ed S on Mar 20, 2009


Let's just hope that this movie turns out more like Pirates of the Caribbean and less like Waterworld (financially speaking only, of course). While I trust Cameron as a director, any time a movie moves north of 150 mil, you run the risk of it just never earning it's money back because you can never really count on anything past the opening weekend (audiences are fickle). Maybe fans will love it and keep it going, maybe it will die out in it's second week. Box office speculation is a huge part of filmmaking now.

Pete the Geek on Mar 20, 2009


While I have a feeling this movie will be groundbreaking, I can't help but feel that this will be a box office flop. Sure, there may be more 3D theaters by December, but as of now that will definitely put a cap on the box office gross. With the amount of 3D screens now, I say $150M maximum. If there is a sudden 3D outburst...$250M.

Ryan on Mar 20, 2009


This is the movie that has helped push those early 3D movies into the box office like Coraline and My Bloody Valentine 3D. If the film and 3D are as good as I'd expect from James Cameron I don't think we have much to worry about on how this performs. The man is a blockbuster virtuoso.

James Bradford on Mar 20, 2009


wouldn't it be tragic if this movie bombs though?

????? on Mar 20, 2009


if u want to see a damn good 3d movie go see caroline

Darrin on Mar 20, 2009


This movie will flop. Mainstream audiences aren't going to want to watch giant blue elves as the main characters, it's not appealing. Our main character is literally transformed into a giant blue elf like a frickin' Smurf. Essentially the people of Pandora are just like the Smurfs, peace loving, environmentally friendly, etc. It's going to appeal to the same people who liked "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" and it may make a lot of money, but it won't be the next "Titanic" or "Dark Knight", it's too much of a big high concept.

LINKFX on Mar 20, 2009


If this is as awesome as we all hope and everyone is saying it is I really don't think it can flop.

Timothy on Mar 20, 2009


Hi--I'm sorry to say: That $300 million is in error. We're correcting it shortly on the website and in a correction in the next issue. The number should be $200 million, per Fox...

Josh Quittner on Mar 20, 2009


I'm scared for this movie. @LINKFX - you've got to be smoking the sweet sweet crack rock if you think anyone would sink 300mil into anything even remotely resembling "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within". I'd hazard to say you could probably even expect a call from some lawyers within a few days for a possible slander suit just for posting that particular movie title in the comments section of an Avatar related article. (not rly)

bozoconnors on Mar 20, 2009


I would love to see James Cameron take on Gundam! The man can do no wrong!

David Wilson on Mar 20, 2009


If nothing else it will certainly be the most talked about movie of all time. I think people may go see it just to see what the fuss is about.

Craig on Mar 20, 2009


I'm sure it'll be good, but I'm kind of getting sick of Cameron talking for hours and hours about the effects and hardly mentioning the story. The effects can be amazing, but if the story sucks nobody will care.

Colca on Mar 20, 2009


if it's so fucking great show me a fucking trailer,most of the time the hype & the build up to film is actually better than the film(phantom meance,spider-man 3,x-men 3.)

zetsu on Mar 20, 2009


This movie is so under the radar....release a trailer already...jeezzus!

vic on Mar 20, 2009


Is 'Avatar' baised on a cartoon or something?

Staatz on Mar 20, 2009


at #16, sure it may be really talked about... but only within communities that already watch movies. None of my friends know this movie even exists. None of my family members. The only people who know about this movie are message-boarders like the rest of you guys. I have a considerable bad feeling about the performance of this in the B.O. I mean, sure it's James Cameron... Titanic blah blah. But the reason that performed like it did was because of the "romance" that transcended through tragedy and recognizable human characters. Throw in a bunch of tall blue elves and you lose most of that audience, and are left only with sci-fi people (and a few curious others).

Alfredo on Mar 20, 2009


Don't forget the fact that this is now being released in an article for TIME MAGAZINE. So I'm sure the buzz will start to build up. My only concern, is that is it going to look like that pic from above? Because when we do get a trailer in the theaters and on our computers. Won't it just look like a, Journey to the Center of the Earth trailer? Cause our computers and most theater screens don't have 3-D imaging.

The_Phantom on Mar 20, 2009


Time, just amended the figure to excess of "200 million" not 300

Christopher M on Mar 20, 2009


After this I want an Aquaman 3D movie. lol

dave on Mar 20, 2009


Maybe they will hype it to death, but right now I cant't see this making a massive profit. But I don't think it matters. Cameron is a legend and what he does he does great, so it will be a good movie (at least I hope it will). And then he will do something else to blow us away (this should have been terminator 3).

Ryderup on Mar 20, 2009


If you were a studio I think you'd feel a fair bit of confidence sinking that kind of budget into a Cameron movie. I'm sure it will be amazing and mind blowing and will return the studio a profit but I don't think it will smash any box office records no matter how many repeated viewings I give it! Titanic had a broad, cross section appeal which I think this film will find hard to match.

Payne by name on Mar 20, 2009


I don't think anyone is here talking Titanic like draws or box office. But watch T2 again and tell me he can't make a kickass Sci-Fi blockbuster. Then watch Aliens Then watch True Lies (not sci-fi but certainly Arnold's last big hurrah) I have confidence.

James Bradford on Mar 20, 2009


Remember people this thing opens around Christmas time. Even a shitty movie can break 100 million during that season. Remember how big Marely and Me was? And Bedtime Stories?

David Wilson on Mar 20, 2009

29 say they should put more money into remakes and adaptations is absurd. We fnally got an original idea with a power house film making team, and a blockbuster budget and you're telling the studios they made a mistake?! Nowadays Cameron is probably the only director who could get support for an original idea so hopefully there will be enough people to support it so we get more original ideas. If not we'll end up with more of the same toy reboots.

peloquin on Mar 20, 2009


Cameron doesn't flop, and every movie he makes changes Hollywood forever. Cameron has been out of the game for far too long, and you just know he's pouring everything he has into this. I'm not a fan of 3-D, but if Cameron is doing it I'm sold. I'm so excited just for some footage. I don't think I'll be as giddy for this as I was for Watchmen, but maybe some footage will change that.

Rorschach90 on Mar 20, 2009


Oh don't get me wrong, I am looking forward to it immensely though I confess to having been disappointed with True Lies (I felt it was a film that any one of a number of directors could have made).

Payne by name on Mar 20, 2009


so with all the box office failures that Fox has had the last two years, if this were to also fail I could see this shuting them Fox movies for awhile.

jesse on Mar 20, 2009


What I don't get... Hes waiting to show the trailer right? So, like show it on tv? show it in theaters? Wouldn't he want the first glimpse to be 3D? So wouldn't you need glasses? So wouldn't they have to premiere the trailer in front of a 3D movie, seeing as how 3D movies don't get much viewers, how is everyone gonna get a glimpse at this? Do you even NEED glasses to see this? WTH is going on!!

Richard on Mar 20, 2009


I have Googled for Avatar updates for months, but somehow these two guys are always ahead of the game. I don't know how they do it:

Indy Film Director on Mar 20, 2009


Dude from Time must have forgotten Titanic's budget. That's how The Cam rolls...

Mr j Money on Mar 20, 2009


lol some of u people make me laugh . There is no dought this movie could be huge but it will most likly not be anywhere as big as the majoirty of people on this website think it will be . It's nice to see a really original idea making it though . I think in the end this movie will be overhyped but it will make money . It if cost over 300 million it will most likly barely turn a profit . Name value is still huge in the movies so Transformers will still probably be the highest grossing movie this year . I hope thi smovie is good but it wouldn't surpirse me if it only ok . People need to relax on here and relaise that swearing dosent make u sound intelligent and dosent make anyone else care abotu ur opinion . P.s for those who say this movie is helping current 3d movies . Thats ridiulous 3d movies have been around for a long time now . Hell i went with my nephew to see Spy Kids 3d and im positive no one in the movie industry outside of Cameron knew of Avatar . Get over it . It's 3d it's not new and YES Coraline was awesome !

Superchyle on Mar 20, 2009


This will be the greatest movie for a very very long time. It will surpass Titanic in many ways. Most importantly in it's effect on the viewing public's idea of films and Hollywood's thoughts on how films are made. We look back on the Titanic now, it made a lot of money. We will look back on Avatar in 10 years time. It will near 1 billion in sales (remember there will be a day soon when stereoscopic films will be rented on iTunes and viewed on your home tv for a couple bucks... over and over and over). If you think this will flop then you are very wrong or you only count the opening weekend. This film will last.

cp on Mar 20, 2009


i'm excited

Dan W on Mar 20, 2009


anyone have any ideas to the answers to my questions?

Richard on Mar 20, 2009


@richard It'd be nice if they premiered it in front of a 3D film but it may very well premiere in 2D. Which isn't a problem. It's just a trailer after all, and is designed to pique our interest and give us an idea of what the film will be - if they have a 3D trailer in front of a 3D film, great, but they'll have 2D as well and if it's half as amazing as it should be a good 2D trailer is all we need.

Timothy on Mar 20, 2009


I know there's a good angle for making the audience part of the movie. But surely that shouldn't be the case with EVERY movie in the future right? They talk about it like they want to wipe out 2D movies from the planet... But sometimes making the action come out at you is WRONG for some stories.

SS on Mar 20, 2009


#28 THEN...WATCH THE ABYSS!!! Is anyone here with me about this amazing SF-movie? Extended Edition is one of my favorite SF experiences ever! James Cameron's AVATAR is going to blow our minds! I've red the scriptment and it's nothing compared to 3D-reality in December...Can't wait... Bring on The Battle Angel Jim! XD

m4st4 on Mar 21, 2009


#5. Just to let you know that Cameron was not the biggest director of the 20th Century. That mantle goes to Steven Spielberg. He did make some pretty awesome films though and I really think that this film will be the return of the Cameron that I knew when I was a kid. He has not made a Sci-fi action film since Terminator 2, and he has not made a great movie since True Lies. That's right I was one of those people who hated Titanic. The only good thing about that film was the ship going down. The whole film was utter crap and for some stupid fucking reason people got wrapped up into it.

Jamie on Mar 21, 2009


And yes #42. The Abyss was a fucking awesome movie. It lead the path for computer effects and the story telling was amazing. The technology used in the film was then used in Terminator 2 and then Jurassic Park. Not many people have heard or even seen the film. So if have not seen it go and rent or buy the extended edition dvd. You won't be sorry you did.

Jamie on Mar 21, 2009


Is this the same 3D that we have to use those sunglasses type or did I hear somewhere that no glasses will be needed? Isn't steroscopic supposed to be glasses-free? I wear eye glasses and can't see myself putting glasses on top of glasses....might have to get some contacts....

JudoJedi on Mar 21, 2009


The cost on this movie is for a a reason. Cameron and crew BUILT completely new technology for this movie. hardware for filming 3D etc that will be used industry wide. This is more then just a movie, its going to present an evolution in film technology.

JimD on Mar 21, 2009


Wheres the fuckin trailer Jim?

Tir na og on Mar 21, 2009


Nice to see people concerned about the actual quality of Avatar in normal cinematic terms, regardless of the 3D technology. Cameron's no fool, and knows most people will be viewing this in non-3D, where the largest proportion of its box office business will be drawn. It's got to deliver that way, and I think that's what most of the public will be expecting: a James Cameron film as good and involving as all his others.

sleepykid on Mar 21, 2009


I do not see this film ending up as anything but as a mindblowingly fantastic experience like no other. I've read the scriptment and even though its been completely updated by now, what I read was top notch quality that could sell any movie on a storyline bases. Its just too interesting and original. They have already apperently spent over 300 million making it the most expensive movie ever. Now why would they do that for an original idea, its not even a sequal people, do you guys realize this. James Cameron, though he has not made many movies, every single one he has made was of the highest quality entertainment, Oh and please give me a break, Titanic was not a shit movie in the least. If you didn't like the movie, that only means you didn't like the movie, it definitely does not mean the movie was not made properly. I thoroughly enjoyed Titanic, it was filled with great characters and drama anyways this movie doesn't need to be defended against people who didn't like it its perfectly clear people all around the world loved it and it is a proven fact that when something is extremely successful there will always be a crowd who totally hate it and think its the worst movie ever made. Its happening right now with The Dark Knight. Anyways back to AVATAR. Another thing I'm intrigued about is the fact that James Cameron, while filming did not want to look at the footage in 3D so as to not get carried away by the new technology, but rather focus on making a great story in 2D which he is used to. The movie also Stars a big time up and coming Australian Actor Sam Worthtington and also Zoe Saldana as a Hot Blue Alien sounds awesome aswell. Apparently the movie is 60 % CGI and 40% real. The CGI is so real people will not be able to tell the difference and the filmmakers noticed CGI looks even more real in 3D, this just sounds too amazing, I am super excited, Hollywood will never be the same again After this one. Yes I don't see any one reason why this movie could possibly be unsuccessful and I have a great certainty it will be even more then a success.

Jordan W on Mar 21, 2009


cant wait for 12-18-2009.ill be there on opening day.

pepillo on Mar 21, 2009



werdnafaz on Mar 22, 2009


#42 Jamie - There's nothing wrong with disliking Titanic but calling True Lies a truly great film is a bit of a stretch. Good action scenes but a formulaic script, a good guy that you don't warm to for how he treats his wife and a hugely irritating daughter whose 'peril' at the end removes all notion of tension because you know that a child in peril will never die. It's watchable but for me it was a step back for them both.

Payne by name on Mar 23, 2009


Maybe this will be a Captain EO of the 21st century? 🙂 Did I just say that? totally joking. cameron's a badass though and it's safe to say we've missed him.

Waka Waka on Mar 23, 2009


Are you all some hollywood insiders or what? Jus let the movie come out when it does, and in the meanwhile get a life..Lmao

I hate3 u all on Apr 21, 2009


This is the Best movie i have EVER seen. It blew my mind and I will go see it again; good job James Cameron!!!

mealsonwheels on Dec 18, 2009


I love this film alot!! I watched it in 3D..and it's AWSOME!!! Recommend for everyone!!..^^

kolanie on Dec 25, 2009

57 For those who don't want to click the link, it is #4 on the list behind Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. It is possible it will dethrone LoTR: Return of the King, but I don't see it beating Titanic. Must suck for all those who said it would bomb. I didn't even hear about this movie until last week... when a co-worker said it was the best movie he's ever seen. I took it with a grain of salt. Then I went to see it... It was amazing! You really felt like you were on Pandora. I really think this is the gateway movie that will hook everyone on the 3d experience. How funny would it be if James Cameron had the #1 and #2 top grossing movies of all time? It is very possible... To those saying it has to be good without 3-d, I don't think it is. The story is "meh" and predictable. Like many have said, the alien race looks like blue elves. I would not have even been interested in this movie if not for IMAX 3-d and after seeing it, it is one of my favorites of all time.

Josh on Jan 3, 2010

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