Hollywood and Space

Some interesting comments by Warren Ellis in today’s Bad Signal on film budgets, and Superman Returns in particular.

$250 million puts you in spacelaunch-budget territory. For $250 million WB could’ve given Bryan Singer his own communications satellite and spent the change on a George Clooney movie.

This is the absurdity of modern Hollywood; that taking more than the GNP of Luxembourg in a single weekend is not actually enough to put a movie in the black.

It’s the “spacelaunch” comment that I find most interesting, as I made the same comparison a few years ago, from the other side of the fence: Assuming that the Spirit and Opportunity missions to Mars are typical, price-wise, it doesn’t make sense to complain that we’re “wasting” money on space exploration when a mission costs as much as two summer blockbusters. Manned missions are, of course, more expensive, but robotic missions? If we, as a society, toss away $250 million several times a year on mindless action flicks, what’s so terrible about spending a similar amount to learn something about our universe?

Yes, I know the difference is public vs. private funding. Movies are financed by studios and private investors, and space exploration is usually financed by governments, and therefore by taxes. But comparing the dollar amounts puts things in a different perspective—whether you’re astonished by the literally astronomical movie budgets, or realizing that exploring outer space is more down to Earth than it seems at first glance.

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