In addition to the plethora of statues to its name, Bohemian Rhapsody was a box office success in a way that people could not have predicted, a phenomenon that ended its box office run at just over $900 million worldwide, making it the most successful music biopic ever and the 6th biggest film of 2018. On a budget of $52 million, you might think that kind of return would make many involved with the Freddie Mercury biopic filthy rich.
It’s incredible, it’s like a billion dollar movie. I had to laugh actually the other day. Because there’s this thing in the paper saying that we were getting rich off this movie. If they only knew. We were accounting the other day, and we still haven’t earned a penny. How successful does a movie need to be before you make money?
That is a bit of a bummer to hear, considering we know that Brian May and Queen were closely involved in the development of Bohemian Rhapsody for over a decade. Brian May and Roger Taylor both received Executive Music Producer credits on a film that went on to make close to a billion dollars, so you might expect them to reap some financial rewards on the backend.
However, as of now Brian May told Zoe Ball on BBC Radio 2’s The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show that he and Queen still haven’t ‘earned a penny’ from Bohemian Rhapsody. Without knowing the exact terms and nature of the band’s deal with the studio and the various parties involved, it’s impossible to say that Brian May and Queen are owed money for Bohemian Rhapsody.
Nevertheless, Brian May’s framing of the matter makes it seem like, given the success of the film, there was some expectation on Queen’s part there would be something extra coming their way. Brian May did allude to the fact that there are a lot of people who the film’s profits go to first, so maybe the money is still being divvied up and Queen’s checks are on the way.
Perhaps the stories about Queen’s getting rich off the film have less to do with liquidity and more to do with how the film increased the band’s wealth. Even if they haven’t made a cent off of Bohemian Rhapsody yet, the movie did a lot for Queen’s exposure and increased streams and sales of the band’s albums, also presumably driving interest for upcoming shows. Bohemian Rhapsody has more people listening to Queen’s music and that has to be good for the bottom line.
Although Queen allegedly isn’t directly profiting from the film yet, some people and entities are. Bohemian Rhapsody’s success did help 21st Century Fox’s financials in a big way. Also, reports have indicated Freddie Mercury’s longtime friend Mary Austin, portrayed by Lucy Boynton in the film, is expected to have earned $60+ million for the film and his sister Kashmira Bulsara reportedly earned $25 million. Even fired director Bryan Singer is expected to have walked away with $40 million for his efforts on the film.