One of the most convenient and inexpensive forms of entertainment is heading out to see a movie. Theaters are conveniently located in almost every town and can hold large numbers of people for a few hours at a time, meaning attendees can be cycled through every few hours, generating traffic while appearing not to be crowded. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, attendance at cinemas was about four times that of theme parks, and ten times that of sporting events in 2014. This brought in approximately $10.4 billion for the movie industry that year.1
The most popular genres of films are typically action/adventure, comedy, sci-fi/fantasy, suspense, animation, horror, etc., with many movies spanning one or more forms — which can be either disastrous or incredibly satisfying to a movie-goer.2 Take "Avatar," for example, which is an action/adventure/romance with about 60 percent animation, and which is the highest grossing movie, not counting for inflation. On the other hand, "The Adventures of Pluto Nash," was supposed to be funny and adventurous but ended up being a whole lot of neither.3
The highest costs of production fall between marketing, actor salaries, and special effects4. It should not be a surprise, then, that the highest budget movies are action/adventure movies, which also tend to have the highest profits. "Avatar" (2009) is the highest grossing film to date, with a production budget of $425,000,000. Close behind is "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens" with a $306,000,000 budget.5
Animated films also happen to be expensive to produce, as they require extensive time and resources to create. According to Pixar animator Bruce Kuei, it takes anywhere from four to seven years to create a movie like the ever-popular "Toy Story"6, whereas it took around two years to release "Star Wars Episode VII" after writers had begun creating the storyline in 2013. "Toy Story" grossed $364,402,211 worldwide, approximately twelve times its production budget7.
A number of other factors come into play, depending on the movie. Multiple locations, number of well-known actors, and music production all contribute additional expenses and extend the time of production. But while each of these factors may increase cost, they are also significant components of a quality movie. Imagine any "Star Wars" without the opening scene music, "Jack and Rose"'s love story without Celine Dion, or "Toy Story" without the catchy "You Got a Friend in Me" tune. And how many people would have seen "Shutter Island" if Leo DiCaprio was not cast as the main character?
Overall, Hollywood producers can afford immense budgets because their profits highly outweigh the cost of production. Few movies are considered "flops" and are typically lower budget than the movies that more than make up for them8. Even less popular movie genres — documentaries for example — are known to gross more than ten times what it costs to produce them, most likely because production rates are extraordinarily low compared to that of their sought-out counterparts9.
Still, good movies are good movies. Whether this has to do with the artistic inclination of the director or the budget for special effects, scoring, actor salaries or computer graphics, it is realistic to say that it is dependent on both. Immense funds are just one piece of the entire puzzle, but ultimately the result of such hard work is entirely dependent on the viewer.