“Black Panther” is already one of the best movie investments ever

Another happy customer.
Another happy customer.
Image: Reuters/Christopher Aluka Berry
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The decision to green light Black Panther was a very wise one. Not only is the superhero film among the most critically acclaimed big-budget movies ever made, it has also provided an exceptional financial return to Marvel, Disney, and its other backers.

When investors assess the success of a financial bet, they often use the gauge of return on investment (ROI)—the profit from the investment divided by the cost of the investment. In terms of ROI, Black Panther has made $1.3 billion in worldwide gross revenue in theaters thus far, against a $200 million production budget; that’s good for a whopping 657% return thus far.

The movie is still in theaters, but even if it stopped showing today, according to data from the movie-business website The Numbers it would have the 12th-highest ROI of the nearly 250 movies with a production budget of at least $150 million (adjusted for inflation). The Numbers does not include spending on advertising, and some production budget numbers are disputed. But still!

Movies with the best ROI based on theater revenues, production budget greater than $150 million*

* ROI on production budget only—advertising spending not included.

Black Panther is a resounding financial success compared with most other big-budget movies, but in the full ROI ranking of all movies that showed in theaters, big and small, it can’t compete with Deep Throat.

With an ROI of nearly 180,000%, the 1972 film Deep Throat, one of the few explicitly pornographic movies to succeed in theaters, has the highest return out of more than 5,000 movies for which The Numbers tracks production budgets. (The website focuses mainly on movies made in the US, so it is possible that some low-budget film made in another country was an even better investment.)

Shot in just six days, the makers of Deep Throat spent only about $150,000 (in today’s dollars) on the movie. It subsequently generated almost $270 million in theater revenues. Sex sells.

Movies with the best ROI based on theater revenues, any budget*

* ROI on production budget only—advertising spending not included.