Space Movies and TV


If launch costs are above about $800/kg, an orbital movie studio is significantly more expensive than shooting movies on earth, so one might imagine the occasional shuttle IMAX movie, like we have now (CSTS, section, page 251). Once they get to about $200/kg to $800/kg, then an orbital movie studio could cost-competitive with what movie companies now spend to shoot on location in expensive places (CSTS, section, page 252).

TV shows have less money, although TV special events are potentially more promising.

General Market Considerations

One common suggestion is that special effects will eliminate the need to film on location (in space or on earth). I don't know what can be said about this in a rigorous fashion, but zero-g and 1/6 g would appear to be hard to simulate (for example, the zero-g scenes in Apollo 13 were filmed in a microgravity aircraft), and it is not clear that simulated landscapes (of the moon, etc.) can look real.

One overview of documentaries is "Making Money from a Documentary", Artemis Data Book, section 3.4, including some numbers for revenues (in interpreting those numbers, keep in mind that those revenues must also cover marketing and distribution (maybe 1/3), theater expenses (maybe 1/3), and non-spaceflight production expenses).

If one can put on a major event, with very large viewer interest, one might expect to be able to sell TV rights for something in the range of what NBC paid for the 1996 Summer Olympics ($456 million, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, 22 Feb 1996) or the 2000 Sydney games ($705 million world-wide). Of course, most events will have a smaller draw than the Olympics. For additional thoughts on events see the section on space athletic events on the Entertainment page.

Weekly TV shows operate on much smaller budgets, maybe something like a set budget of $1 million or so per episode.

TV news has been known to fund spaceflight, but I don't have numbers on what TV news budgets typically are or other considerations (such as lead times or what have you).

One good source of information on movie budgets is Variety (they don't publish on the web, but they do have a CD-ROM which would seem to be informative although I haven't seen it). A moderately successful movie will tend to earn about $50 million for a studio, out of which they need to pay production costs, etc.


Specific Projects

This page is part of Jim Kingdon's space markets page.