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'Snow White and the Huntsman' Box Office Profitable?

Snow White and the Huntsman budget Kristen StewartSnow White and the Huntsman budget recovered? (Image: Kristen Stewart as Snow White.)

Rupert Sanders' Snow White and the Huntsman has earned $354.71 million worldwide: as of Thursday, July 12, the film has grossed $150.6 million (42.5 percent) in North America, in addition to $204.1 million (57.5 percent) up to July 8 at the international box office. Not bad at all for a movie some insist on referring to as a “modest” success. [Addendum: This two-part article has been revised and updated. Please check out SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN box office vs. budget.]

Starring Kristen Stewart as Snow White, Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman, Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen Ravenna, and Sam Claflin as Prince William, the Universal release had a reported $170 million budget. [See SWATH cast $300m+ movies.]

As a rule, Hollywood studios get about 50 percent of a movie's box office gross in North America and 40 percent of the overseas take. If we apply those percentages (which can and do vary) to Snow White and the Huntsman, Rupert Sanders' first feature has earned Universal approximately $75 million in North America and $81.5 million internationally, for a grand total of $156.5 million – or about $13.5 million less than the film's official budget.

Snow White and the Huntsman to recover its (big) budget?

Now, is there a chance for Snow White and the Huntsman to fully recover its (reported) budget at the box office? At this stage it seems unlikely (though not impossible), as another $30 million or so would be needed worldwide – chiefly overseas, for the film's domestic legs have pretty much run their course. In fact, though at a considerably slower pace, business has begun dwindling abroad as well; last weekend, Snow White and the Huntsman added a relatively modest $8.2 million.

Italy, where Snow White and the Huntsman opened last Wednesday, is the only major market where the film's box office figures have yet to be fully tallied. Things have started out well: according to Screenweek.it, the Kristen Stewart / Charlize Theron / Chris Hemsworth combo has grossed $1.95 million in its first three days, and may top Andrew Garfield / Emma Stone's The Amazing Spider-Man at the Italian box office this weekend. Even so, there's no chance Italy alone will suffice to lift Snow White and the Huntsman's international cume as high as it needs to go.

Snow White and the Huntsman in China?

However, if Universal gets Snow White and the Huntsman into China, then everything changes. So far, there's no scheduled release date in that country, which allows only a small number of foreign blockbusters into their theaters each year.

Although Kristen Stewart's stardom in Shanghai and Beijing may not be what it is most elsewhere – no Twilight movie has been screened in China; in Hong Kong, they've done only okay – action movies with special effects fare particularly well in that country. Indeed, Chris Hemsworth has a major hit at the Chinese box office: The Avengers has raked in $84.1 million. Though not based on a comic strip and not in 3D, I'd be very surprised if Snow White and the Huntsman doesn't turn out to be a major local hit.

[“Budget Recovered? SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN” continues on the next page. See link below.]

Kristen Stewart Snow White / Snow White and the Huntsman 2012 picture: Universal Pictures.

Snow White and the Huntsman Chris Hemsworth Kristen Stewart

Without China, can Snow White and the Huntsman ever recoup its budget for the studio? Not only it can, but it will. In fact, Sanders' film should easily be able to recover even the extra $80m-$90 million the studio likely spent marketing / distributing it. (As a rule of thumb, marketing / distribution costs amount to about half of a film's budget – though those figures can vary widely.)

According to a recent study in the United Kingdom, last year only 24 percent of British film revenues came from (apparently domestic) box office receipts. For a blockbuster such as the Anglo-American co-production Sherlock Holmes, the breakdown was 57 percent for box office / TV / cable / satellite and 43 percent for DVD / Blu-ray / digital.

Of course, those percentages vary from country to country, but let's use a really conservative figure for Snow White and the Huntsman: 50 percent box office , 50 percent everything else. In both cases, worldwide earnings.

At this point in time, that would mean another $355 million in ancillary revenues for the Universal release. Even if the studio gets only half of that amount*, or about $177.5 million, that would be more than enough to cover the little that's left of the budget, in addition to the studio's marketing / distribution expenses. In that scenario, Universal would ultimately be left with significant earnings: even after deducting expenses for the marketing / distribution of DVDs, etc., the studio would collect around $50 million.

Once again, these are “speculative estimates.” The point I'm making is that Universal will recover its investment on Snow White and the Huntsman – plus (sizable) change. That helps to explain why Snow White and the Huntsman 2 is in the works.

Snow White and the Huntsman top international markets

Snow White and the Huntsman's top foreign markets are the following (figures up to July 8): the United Kingdom with $23.43 million, Japan with $18.14 million, Australia with $15.97 million, Mexico with $15.82 million, France with $13.42 million, Germany with $13.2 million, Japan with $10.93 million, Russia/CIS with $12.56 million, Brazil with $12.31 million, and Spain with $10.72 million.

Besides the aforementioned Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, and Sam Claflin, the Snow White and the Huntsman cast includes Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Eddie Marsan, Ray Winstone, Vincent Regan, Noah Huntley, Nick Frost, Rachael Stirling, and Toby Jones. The screenplay was credited to Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, and Hossein Amini.

* Note: Studios spend less on marketing / distributing DVDs than big-screen releases. Also worth noting is that their cut of the grosses from DVD sales is considerably larger, about 66 percent – at least in the domestic market. And remember that a percentage of the money Universal and co-producing company Roth Films earn will have to be (however reluctantly) handed to the talent getting a share of the Snow White and the Huntsman's gross / rentals.

Box office information: Box Office Mojo.

Kristen Stewart Snow White / Snow White and the Huntsman 2012 picture: Alex Bailey / Universal Pictures.

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14 Comments to 'Snow White and the Huntsman' Box Office Profitable?

  1. Ridley

    Interesting that these numbers are spun everywhich way. Maybe most comparable could be Tron Legacy? 400 Mil WW. 170 Domestic. 170 prod cost. Seem to recall that this was considered a major disappointment for Disney.

    On another point,, I agree that Stewart isn't by any means on the level of Cruise. At the same time, doesn't how well this movie is doing abroad a measure of her international appeal? Most recently SWATH opens ahead of Spiderman in Italy amongst other markets. Looking at the most recent numbers is ~400M that far out of reach at this point? Given that this is currently 370M to datei wonder. Of course Dark Knight opens next weekend.

  2. zac


    >>From a rule of thumb perspective, is there a magic number that guarantees Trades consider something a hit?

    I'd say it often depends on the publication's or the writer's agenda. Tom Cruise's “Knight and Day” earned $261m worldwide. Reported cost: $117m. Most of what I've seen describe the movie as a “flop” or a “bomb” or a “disappointment.”

    Why? Tom Cruise is in it. He has become a magnet for negative publicity in the last few years. Those people/publications will spin the facts whichever way they want. “Knight and Day” was a disappointment in North America? Well, let's use *that* as THE parameter to judge the movie's performance. It fits with the kind of image we want for someone like Tom Cruise.

    “Snow White and the Huntsman” stars that “Twilight” chick? Yikes. We all know none of the “Twilight” stars are real stars or box-office attractions. Can't say the film is a bomb? Well, call it a “modest” success or a “moderate performer,” or some such. And so it goes…

    Needless to say, that happens with everything, not just when it comes to reporting entertainment news or the box-office performance of a movie such as “Snow White and the Huntsman.”

    Addendum: When it comes to “Snow White and the Huntsman,” I'm talking about its success — as stated in the article — at the box office. Universal's eventual earnings are something else. Also, I don't believe Joe Roth (the “Alice in Wonderland” producer) was expecting as a big a return on “Snow White” as in “Alice in Wonderland” for three reasons: no 3D, not a children's movie, no Johnny Depp (major star abroad).

  3. Ridley

    Thanks Zac. It's interesting that these are all about expectation and how the movies meet expectations whether stated or not in Trade. From the producers of Alice in Wonderland, I am sure they were expecting a lot more out from this. Allowing the budget to balloon over 170 million as well. Added onto this, it was a kind of p*%@-ing contest with Ryan Kavanaugh, makes for not necessarily the best movie making.

    From a rule of thumb perspective, is there a magic number that guarantees Trades consider something a hit? Like making box office of 100m ore more or is it definitely relative to the budget? Meaning if JC made $125 million, it would not have been thusly crucified?

  4. zac


    Point well taken re: sequels…


    I've seen “Snow White and the Huntsman” referred to as a “modest” or “moderate” success in the trades and, I believe, the “Los Angeles Times.” Just checked. LAT does indeed talk about SWATH's “moderate performance.” They were saying that Universal needed a big hit like “Ted.”

    One thing you'll notice when you're reading US publications is that they usually take into account only the United States. Nothing else matters. Or at least not as much. The studios, of course, know better.

  5. jo

    it will probably break even without china. what is hurting this movie though is it's massive budget. it started out at 70 million and grew to over 170. they promoted it everywhere. there were tons of billboards all over the place in cities, and i think universal was hoping to get a lot more back then what they will. they had a whole weekend on hsn pumping this movie and selling stuff. the movie didn't bomb by any means, and i'm sure they will be happy with what they get back. it's funny though you look at their movie ted, that movie cost about 90 million, and has already made more domestically then snow white. what is helping snow white though is it's appeal overseas, so that's one good thing. i'm wondering though if universal will cut the budget if they do a sequel (i'm one of those that don't believe sequels till they are ready to go, and that goes for any movie).

  6. zac


    You make a good point, though I meant that China grosses — or rather, rentals, i.e., money going to Universal — could be the “tipping point” so “Snow White and the Huntsman” would break even at the worldwide box office.

    From what I've read, the Hollywood studios claim they used to get 13-17.5% of the gross in the Chinese market, now upped to 20-25%. How accurate that is, only someone with direct access to each Hollywood studio's accounting procedures / contracts would know for sure…

  7. r

    Hi Zac, what is the industry perception on SWATH? When you mention 'modest,' is that in the blogosphere or by the powers that be? Would imagine that those in the know would know better about the numbers.

  8. jo

    doubt they will get it into china. china is a very stingy place for movies. also it's not the make it or break it market. studio's get a lot less from china vs what they get from other countries. there was an article about this from the new york times about the sec asking if hollywood studios are briding the chinese government to show their movies. they mentioned that studios get only get about 15% of gross, and that just got changed to 25% from china.

  9. Summeriris

    Interestig analysis but I have to agree with Don and not with luacheia99 . in the UK at least. SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN was very highly marketed. There were TV spots on every single channel, it even sposored a show on the Scifi Channel. that cost signifigantly more that billboards, though it was up on quite a few of those. It hink the marketing costs were on the heavy side to tell the truth. So yes, maybe it is a success as far as the Twilight fans are concerned, unfortunatedly it's not that populatr with at teast half of the people who saw it. Those reviews panning it are just about half.

  10. Freya

    What are the calculations for? SWATH is not a flop but it is not a huge success either. They have budget of 225 mln with marketing and they obviously hoped for more than 350+ mln (I doubt there is a chance to reach 400 mln). There were so much investments in the movie (I mean not only money), everyone was talking about SWATH sometime around, and it still struggling to break even. Only Kristen Stewart's fans claim it's a success. Look at the other summer blockbusters - The Amazing Spiderman, Men in black 4, Ted (not to mention The Avengers) - they are really successful but SWATH is somewhere in the middle, it just didn't live up to the buzz.

  11. luacheia99


    Yeah… I agree with you! We don't have more quality movie been made for lack of money that Studios are putting in one only bag of eggs. For me it is a pity and a sad thing. I reduced hugely the quantity of movies I see per year for lack of what to see.
    Most of the American indie movies don't get distribution. So… I miss the opportunity of see them… :(
    As well… The European and Latino productions are almost zero now a days… We are buried in a huge amount of male teen blockbusters, some comedies and only a few movies that brings something!
    It has to end! 150/250M budget movies are insane! It is nuts! The industry is a wreck route to collective financial suicide. It seems each time more like a Russian roulette!

  12. jo

    @luacheia99, i think the days of studios making films on a modest budget are getting few and far in between. why studios need to feel like they have to spend so much to make a movie is beyond me. there have been many great modest budgeted movies that go on to make their budget plus profit. it's sad because many indie flims are struggling to get made, and studios pass on them to make crap like guinness world book of records the movie, and yes they are actually making that into a movie

  13. zac


    As always, thanks for writing.

    The “40% cut” takes into account the fact that the Hollywood majors usually distribute their own movies abroad. But again, that's the “common wisdom,” in other words, the percentage you see mentioned everywhere. How accurate that is, it's impossible to tell unless one checks the studios' accounting documentation for each of their films.

    But remember, international releases will accrue local fees/taxes, in addition to the cut of the local distributor / exhibitors. That's one key reason why the Hollywood majors' international cut is lower than their domestic one.

    More “common wisdow”: the 50% of the production budget spent on marketing / distribution. That percentage surely varies widely, depending on how big (or small) a film's budget.

    Now, I'd say chances are that a movie with a (reported) $170m budget will propel its studio to spend more than $50m in marketing.

    For comparison's sake: the reported marketing budget for the most recent “Paranormal Activity” movie was $25m. How could Universal only spend twice as much on a movie that (officially) cost 170 times what PA cost?

    Unless I see hard data somewhere that show a smaller amount, I'd bet on the $85m-$90m estimate. When you invest that much money ($170m) on a movie, you do want — you *need* — huge returns. Marketing is the key to achieve that goal, especially considering that a film's box-office success will radically affect ancillary sales.

    But again, the only way to know for sure how much $$$$ was spent on “Snow White and the Huntsman”: an in-depth examination of Universal's accounting department…

    Once again, thanks for writing, luacheia99.

  14. luacheia99


    I think the international earn will be a lot more then 40% because it was mostly distributed by Universal Picture International. In 60 countries, I saw maybe only 5 different distributors, the rest it was made by UPI.

    Beside it I don't think it spent between 70/80 M in marketing. I saw numbers around 50M or less in some sites and analyzes. Basically because it had a very good viral campaign but it was mostly a viral online campaign and just two premieres that had good sponsors, in London and Sidney. Mega installations were only seen in US and UK.

    In most countries as in Brazil the marketing campaign for any movie is ridiculous. It is mostly posters and card-boards in the cinemas and in some road back-lights. I also saw an online trailer campaign on YouTube, nothing more.

    I don't think this kind of campaign are very expensive…

    The movie will add until its ends more 5M or so, making a domestic total of 155M, At foreign BO, at least more 20M minimum but if it goes well in Italy it can make 25M. How? Well it made 14.8M last week/weekend, this week (not including Italy) it will make at least more 7M and the next week/weekend after, more 3M. Soooo it can ending its course with at least more 10/13M plus more 7/12M from Italy.

    So… 355M plus a domestic 5M plus foreign 17/25M… We could say it probably will end its course earning between 377M to 385M.

    Lets put it around 380M.

    With UPI distributing internationally, Universal cut is probably 50% in the foreign BO also.

    So… It would be returning around 190M to pay the 170M production budget and a good part of the 50M marketing budget with the another 20M.

    The profit will be sure and good!

    For a 2D fairytale, not franchise or an adaptation of a book with a rabbit fan base… It did really good!

    But… Please GOD, make these Studios nut budgets trend stop! Movie goers want good movies, they don't care if it is made by 17 or 170 M. A 170 M budget for any movie is sick! Totally nuts!

    A movie that makes this kind of money is a huge success, not a phenomenon but a huge success! Doesn't matter if a crazy executive decision made it almost impossible of be profitable! It is a lot of tickets! I saw that some fans of Kristen Stewart saw it from 4 to 17 times. Can you imagine that? I saw it 3 times!