With a estimated shooting budget of about $180 million, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is officially the most expensive film in French cinematic history. This fact has caused some to speculate about the film's potential downsides, should it break down like other supposed franchise starters like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. But if you talk to director Luc Besson, he's actually not worried at all. He recently explained the a major reason why we should be worried about Valerian, noting that the film thankfully has sound finances and will be OK, even if almost no one sees it:
Like every film company, [EuropaCorp] will only greenlight a project if at least 80% of its budget is covered. With Valerian, we've covered 96% of the budget with pre-sales. I heard that a newspaper did write a bit of shit about the company but actually this newspaper belongs to another company that is going to release a film at the same time. It sounds to me like a very, very below-the-belt attack.
With Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets being a big ticket entry into the canon of this summer's would-be blockbusters, the price tag does seem a bit steep at face value. However, considering that EuropaCorp already has all but 4% of the film's budget covered, the financial worries aren't the primary problem. Considering that this particular piece of the pie amounts to roughly $8.4 million, we assume that shouldn't be hard to come across, as the film should have international appeal.
But if you read further in the interview Luc Besson gave to ScreenDaily, you'll see that the actual risk is what Besson considers the more "human risk": the studio's reputation.
The risk for the company is more one of notoriety. If the film is a big flop, we'll lose credibility for making these sorts of films. The risk is not financial, but rather human.
While financial woes are definitely a going concern when releasing a film, the attitude towards a film's potential failure does reflect on the studio that greenlighted, budgeted, and produced the film. Turning back to the example of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Warner Bros. is definitely going to have to battlethe bad buzz from that film's collapse. Of course, seeing as Warner Bros. has done a pretty bang up job with Wonder Woman, the studio is probably hearing much kinder words as of late.
EuropaCorp, on the other hand, doesn't exactly have a definitive silver bullet in the studio's canon, and its track record before this film is spotty at best. Even the company's Transporter series is on the decline, which makes the presence of two more sequels on the studio's future roster both an asset and a liability. However, even if Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets doesn't work on a financial level, it could very well be a film that sci-fi fans will take a liking to, especially if they're fans of Luc Besson's The Fifth Element. So even with this potential human risk on the books, EuropaCorp still looks like the might come out of this movie better off than other competitors.
We'll see the results when Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets blasts off into theaters on July 26th.