LaBoeuf, Hathaway Provide Most Profit
Forbes recently compiled a list of the 10 actors who earn studios the most money in gross profit per dollar of their salary. The list follows, with average return per dollar of salary:
1. Shia LaBoeuf – $81
2. Anne Hathaway – $64
3. Daniel Radcliffe – $61
4. Robert Downey Jr. – $33
5. Cate Blanchett – $27
6. Jennifer Aniston – $21
7. Meryl Streep – $21
8. Johnny Depp – $18
9. Nicolas Cage – $17
10. Sarah Jessica Parker – $17
Young Actors Return Most Dough
The top three actors on the list, Shia LaBoeuf (24), Anne Hathaway (27) and Daniel Radcliffe (21), are the three entrants younger than 30. They also all return roughly two to 2.5 more profits per dollar of investment than the next-highest-ranked actor, Robert Downey Jr. (44).
This partly reflects the fact that younger actors, even ones with a successful track record so far, have not built up the credibility of older actors and thus command lower salaries. In addition, they serve as a draw for younger viewers, who make up the bulk of the theatrical film audience, making them a good investment.
Blockbusters Help, But Not Necessary
Most of the actors on the list appeared in at least one major blockbuster film ($300 million or more global gross). Despite generally earning one of the highest salaries in Hollywood, Johnny Depp still made the list largely as a result of starring in “Alice in Wonderland,” which grossed $1 billion globally.
However, not every actor in the top 10 return on investment list starred in a recent blockbuster. Neither Jennifer Aniston nor Nicolas Cage made the list based on performance in a blockbuster, but by earning a lower salary than top draws such as Johnny Depp and acting in films that made modest grosses, they returned sizable profit to their studios.
Women’s Lower Salaries Propel Them onto List
In general, women earn less than men for making films and films with female leads do more poorly at the box office than films with male leads. However, partly as a result of earning lower salaries, women compose half of this list.
In addition, some films predominantly featuring female stars and slanted toward a female audience do quite well at the box office. For example, the two “Sex and the City” films starring Sarah Jessica Parker earned a combined $705 million globally, and “Mamma Mia” starring Meryl Streep took in $610 million globally.
America Loves Eastwood
More than half a century after beginning his acting career, tough guy icon Clint Eastwood was America’s favorite movie star in 2009, according to a recent Harris Poll. Eastwood displaced Denzel Washington, the most popular US movie star in 2008, who moved down to number three. Johnny Depp jumped from number eight in 2008 to number two in 2009.
The rest of the top 10 in 2009, with their 2008 ranking in parentheses, are:
4. Sondra Bullock (not ranked)
5. Tom Hanks (7)
6. George Clooney (not ranked)
7. John Wayne (3)
8. Meryl Streep (not ranked)
9. Morgan Freeman (9)
10. Julia Roberts (6)
About the Data: To qualify, each actor had to have starred in at least three movies in the past five years that opened in more than 500 theaters. Movies that opened after June 1, 2010 and animated films were not counted. Forbes calculated each star’s estimated earnings on each film (including upfront pay and any earnings from the movie’s box-office receipts, DVD and TV sales). and looked at each movie’s estimated budget (not including marketing costs) and box-office, DVD and television earnings to figure out an operating income for each film.
Forbes then added up each star’s compensation on his or her last three films and the operating income on those films and divided total operating income by the star’s total compensation to come up with each ROI number. The final number represents an average of how much a studio earns for every dollar paid to the actor.