Blockbusters are caught in an endless cycle of bigger-is-better clichés. Budgets have swollen so much over the past few decades that moderation is now a foreign concept for Hollywood’s major studios. This phenomenon manifests most obviously in the special-effects arena, but don’t for one second assume it doesn’t also mean first-class snacks.
One “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie alone allotted a whopping estimate of $2 million for craft services, the department that provides meals and goodies for everyone on the set throughout production. Jack Davenport, who played Commodore James Norrington in the first three “Pirates” films, told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview published Sunday that a chef once informed him the food budget was “essentially unlimited.”
“I was like, ‘What does that mean?,” Davenport said. “He was like, ‘I don’t know, $2 million.’ I was like, ‘For snacks?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah?’ That sounds frivolous, but it wasn’t. He obviously had to keep people fed.”
Another “Pirates” alum, Lee Arenberg, who played Pintel, recounted the “legendary speech” a producer delivered at the end of a shoot, in which he said caterers had prepared 170,000 meals.
For added context: The entire price tag of this year’s Best Picture winner, “Moonlight,” totaled a mere $1.5 million.
Of course, $2 million is chump change given the “Pirates” movies’ ballooning budgets. The 2003 original cost Disney $140 million, while its 2006 and 2007 sequels climbed to a mind-boggling $225 million and $300 million, respectively. But contextualized within Hollywood history, $2 million is a wild sum: In the early days, actors and crew members brought their own lunches to work, brown-bag style. Now, studios will drop $2 million on food, but they’ll rarely greenlight the mid-budget original stories that drove the movie industry as recently as the 1990s.
The newest “Pirates” installment, “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” opened this weekend with a $230 million budget, drawing at least $62 million in ticket sales. Its predecessor, 2011’s “On Stranger Tides,” was the franchise’s weakest grosser domestically, but it saw the heftiest overseas revenue, exemplifying Hollywood’s reliance on foreign ticket sales. Many sequels, reboots and spin-offs have under-performed among American audiences over the past few years, but their foreign profits make that a non-issue.
The “Pirates” sequels’ scathing reviews aren’t enough to keep them down, though box-office analysts expect “Dead Men” could become the series’ weakest stateside moneymaker to date.
But hey, at least everyone on the set ate well.