Gal Gadot

Why Snow White’s Delay Is a Poisoned Apple for Disney’s Bottom Line

The cost of Disney's live-action film, before the delays and reshoots, paints a stark picture.

THE BIG PICTURE

  •  Disney’s film Snow White, starring Rachel Zegler and Gal Gadot, could challenges breaking even at the box office.
  •  Disney’s UK subsidiary, Hidden Heart Productions, invested a massive $209.3 million in the film’s production, with a reimbursement of $41.1 million from the UK government’s Film Tax Relief scheme.
  •  The film needs to earn at least $340 million to break even, based on the assumption that theaters and studios take 50% of the box office, but recent underperforming movies have created uncertainty.

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Disney’s Snow White was delayed by a full year last week, and a recent report shows that the film, which stars Rachel Zegler and Gal Gadot, is facing massive challenges to break even at the box office. An investigation by Forbes has revealed that, even prior to the colossal delay and evident reshoots — made clear by the newly released imagery which shows Disney has clearly abandoned their plans to “dwarf-wash” their first ever feature film — the movie is facing an uphill task just to break even, based on the performances of other films from the company in recent times.

The financial aspects of film production are typically shrouded in secrecy, as studios amalgamate individual movie expenses within their overall budgets without specifying the allocation for each project. However, there are exceptions, especially for movies filmed in the UK, such as Snow White. This particular film was shot in the outskirts of London at the renowned Pinewood Studios and various UK locations.

Productions conducted in the UK benefit from the government’s Film Tax Relief scheme, which offers studios a cash reimbursement of up to 25% of their UK expenditures, provided it constitutes at least 10% of the movie’s total budget. In order to take advantage of this incentive, studios establish separate entities for each movie and are required to submit financial statements detailing various aspects, including staff numbers, salaries, expenses, and the received cash reimbursement. These companies tend to use code names to maintain discretion, especially when applying for location filming permits, to keep fans away as much as anything.

How Much Did ‘Snow White’ Cost to Make?

snow white
Image via Disney

In the case of Snow White, Disney’s UK subsidiary — named Hidden Heart Productions, — oversaw the project. Recently disclosed financial statements reveal that over the three-year period leading up to July 31, 2022, Disney invested a gargantuan $209.3 million (£150.5 million) in the film’s production. The filings attribute a portion of this considerable cost to pandemic-induced delays in the production of the film — not unusual, especially when compared to other big-budget releases.

The significant expenditures also have positive ramifications for the UK, as studios tend to make use of local services, including equipment rentals, travel, and visual effects companies. Filming activities generate employment opportunities, and Hidden Heart Productions, for instance, employed 354 staff members, excluding the freelancers who constitute the majority of a film crew. Disney’s investment in local talent and services can then easily be justified as mutually beneficial.

Thanks to that UK tax benefit, Disney has been granted a reimbursement of $41.1 million (£29.5 million) for Snow White reducing its net expenditure on the film to $168.2 million. This constitutes the basic budget that the movie must cover, and it’s important to note that these costs are expected to increase significantly — and most likely have already, with any promotional material having to be disposed of with the release changes. In addition, this was before any post-production work took place on the movie.

In July 2022, the film needed to earn at least $340 million to break even, if we apply the logic that theaters and studios take 50% of the film’s box office. That was in a world before Marvel movies sank without trace, Indiana Jones struggled to perform and The Marvels opens to worryingly low numbers. For Snow White, audiences will just have to wait and see when the film opens in theaters on May 22, 2025.

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