11 Incredibly Successful Movies (That Shockingly Made No Profit)

The Lord of the Rings wasn't as profitable as you may think.

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New Line Cinema

Movies are risky to make. With the costs of producing a movie, which includes paying the cast and crew and for the sets and equipment, post-production and effects, costs can pile up quickly. In addition, there's also the costs of marketing and distribution.

Somewhat naturally, when a film does incredibly well at the box office, you might think that it's a resounding success and everyone laughs all the way to the bank. But that's not always the case.

Enter the strange magic of Hollywood Accounting. More often than not, this system finds a way to take more money from a film's earnings, seeing films lose money even when they're successful.

Under net profits accounting, various individuals and entities, including the studio itself, are paid before the books on a given film are balanced. A film company can assign costs to a film - including distribution, advertising and overhead - that may have no relationship to actual expenses.

These costs are deducted from gross receipts before there is any profit calculation. Consequently, even a box-office blockbuster may show no net profits, despite yielding millions of dollars in income.

Source: The New York Times

Sometimes it's the studio that loses money. Other times, an individual who's owed money from a movie might not get it because it wasn't as profitable as its success indicated.

Either way, these movies were successful at the box office, but didn't get to enjoy all that money... at least, that's what their studios claimed.

11. Fahrenheit 9/11

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Lionsgate/IFC/Dog Eat Dog

Made for a budget of $6 million and earning $222.4 million, Michael Moore's controversial documentary on the Bush administration was a huge success, and remains the highest-grossing documentary in the United States.

However, Moore claimed that the film's producers, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, used "Hollywood accounting tricks" to keep him from earning money that was owed to him, which was $2.7 million, so he sued them in 2011.

Allegedy, Moore's agreement with the Weinstein brothers was to split all profits equally, but "grossly excessive and unreasonable" expenses were deducted before the profits were calculated.

The Weinsteins' lawyer, Bert Fields, refuted these claims. Fields said that Moore's claims were "hogwash", "without merit", and he was "paid every dime he's entitled to."

Eventually, though, a settlement was reached for undisclosed amounts and terms.


Aaron Kirby hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.