Hugo

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  • Directed By: Martin Scorsese
  • Written By: John Logan
  • Release Date: November 23, 2011
  • Domestic Distributor: Paramount
  • Cast: Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz

Box Office Info:

Budget: $156 millionFinanced by: GK Films
Domestic Box Office: $73,864,507Overseas Box Office: $111,905,653

Synopsis

Orphaned and alone except for an uncle, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives in the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris. Hugo’s job is to oil and maintain the station’s clocks, but to him, his more important task is to protect a broken automaton and notebook left to him by his late father (Jude Law). Accompanied by the goddaughter (Chloë Grace Moretz) of an embittered toy merchant (Ben Kingsley), Hugo embarks on a quest to solve the mystery of the automaton and find a place he can call home.

Official Trailer

Hugo Box Office Breakdown


A few months before the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick was going to be published by Scholastic in 2007, producers Graham King and Johnny Depp optioned the rights — while both had a production deal at Warner Bros.  The studio balked at the expensive $100 million price tag attached to the project and King shopped Hugo around to other studios in hopes of landing a co-financing partner, but they all passed.  Graham King’s GK Films took on full financial responsibilities on Hugo and Martin Scorsese’s first family film went into production with a $100 million budget.

The decision to film in 3D first added $15 million to the budget and the technical complications of using the format caused the production to go massively over budget and over schedule.  Graham King: “Budget wise, there just wasn’t enough prep time and no one really realized how complicated doing a 3-D film was going to be. I went through three line producers because no one knew exactly what was going on. Do I still think it’s a masterpiece that will be talked about in 20 years? Yes. But once the schedule started getting out of whack, things just spiraled and spiraled and that’s when the avalanche began.”

The budget for Hugo went $80M over budget and Graham King has said that after tax credits Hugo cost $156 million.   King also mitigated some risk on the picture by selling off most overseas markets to distributors.

Sony originally took on domestic distribution duties and dated Hugo for December 9, but Graham King wanted the movie out over the Thanksgiving holiday frame.  Sony already had their animated family pic Arthur Christmas scheduled for that weekend and refused to move it.  Hugo was then moved over to Paramount, which dated it for Thanksgiving.  Hugo was a tough sell commercially and was certainly not helped by a lousy first trailer that completely misrepresented the tone and amped up the goofiness with Sacha Baron Cohen.  As the release grew closer, tracking was poor, but the reviews were stellar and there was strong awards buzz.  Paramount gave Hugo a muted marketing campaign and booked it only moderately wide into 1,277 theaters, hoping word of mouth would carry the picture to decent box office.

Hugo bowed against two other family targeting movies The Muppets and Arthur Christmas and the market was saturated with other holdover family fare — Puss In Boots and Happy Feet Two.   Hugo opened just above its low expectations with $11,364,505.  It eventually landed 11 Oscar nominations and had enough legs to gross $73,864,507 at the US box office.  Paramount would see returned about $40.5 million after theaters take their percentage of the gross, which would likely cover the ad spend, but that would not put a dent in the colossal budget.

Overseas, the film pulled in $111.9 million, while a decent number, was again not nearly enough to cover the budget that spiraled out of control.  GK Films took an $80 million loss on the project and Hugo caused a rift and then departure in their financial partnership with Texas oilman billionaire Tim Headington, who was a main line of support for Graham King’s company.  The financial loss also created a rift between King and director Scorsese, who had provided capital for the director’s films for decades and the two have not collaborated since.  This lovely film is one of the biggest box office flops of all time.

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