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WAKANDANOMICS

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

Dan Kopf
By Dan Kopf

Senior data reporter

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*

RankMovieReturn on Investment
1Titanic (1997)1,104%
2Star Wars Ep. I: The Phantom Menace (1999)893%
3Frozen (2013)849%
4The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)814%
5Furious 7 (2015)799%
6Beauty and the Beast (2017)789%
7Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)780%
8Jurassic World (2015)778%
9Zootopia (2016)680%
10The Avengers (2012)675%
11Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens (2015)673%
12Black Panther (2018)657%
13Avatar (2009)655%
14Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)629%
15The Da Vinci Code (2006)614%
16Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)613%
17Iron Man 3 (2013)608%
18Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)598%
19Spider-Man (2002)591%
20Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)576%

* 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*

RankMovieReturn on investment
1Deep Throat (1972)179,900%
2Mad Max (1980)49,780%
3Paranormal Activity (2009)43,050%
4The Gallows (2015)41,650%
5The Blair Witch Project (1999)41,280%
6Super Size Me (2004)34,110%
7Bambi (1942)31,140%
8El Mariachi (1993)29,070%
9Night of the Living Dead (1968)26,290%
10Rocky (1976)22,400%
11Halloween (1978)21,440%
12The Brothers McMullen (1995)20,750%
13The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)18,880%
14American Graffiti (1973)17,920%
15My Date With Drew (2005)16,360%
16Once (2007)15,450%
17Clerks (1994)14,320%
18The Stewardesses (1969)12,400%
19Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)12,330%
20Billy Jack (1971)12,150%

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

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