On Business: Pay Scale

By | Monday, February 12, 2018 Leave a Comment
Recently, someone apparently leaked Chadwick Boseman's pay for several of his movies. It breaks down like this...

Draft Day (2014)$315,657
Get on Up (2014)$346,452
Message from the King (2016)$405,844
Gods of Egypt (2016)$541,126
Captain America: Civil War (2016) $710,227
Black Panther (2018)$874,126

The immediate comparisons people have made is that Boseman was paid far less than Robert Downey, Jr. and Chris Evans have made recently. For Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), some of the stars' salaries break down like this...

Robert Downey, Jr.  $40 million
Scarlett Johansson  $20 million
Chris Evans$6.9 million
Jeremy Renner$6.1 million
Chris Hemsworth$5.4 million

There's a problem with this comparison, though, and probably not one that you're thinking of.

Most of these figures are final salaries, and these numbers are not mentioned in their actors' contracts anywhere. That is, there are two parts to what these actors earn in Marvel movies. First is a base salary. "Here's XXXX dollars for you to appear in a Marvel film." The second part is a back-end deal where they additionally earn a percentage of whatever profits the movies make -- for all the instances I've been able to find, it's been 0.2%. "Hey, the movie turned out really well and earned a boatload of money; here's a part of that as a bonus." Age of Ultron grossed $1.4 billion in theater tickets worldwide and another $80 million in video sales. With a production budget of $330 million, that leaves a little over $1 billion to spread around. A 0.2% bonus based off that is a nice $2 million, so even up-front base salary of $500,000 could still lead to an actor getting a multi-million dollar paycheck.

(Notoriously, I should point out, though, Hollywood tends to use a lot of arcane budgeting tricks to bring that apparent "profit" number down as low as possible. So, on paper, and what would have been used to calculate actors' back-end bonuses, Age of Ultron officially netted probably noticeably less than $1 billion.)

All of this is noteworthy with regards to Boseman's leaked pay because the Black Panther number has to be an outlier. The $710,000 he earned on Civil War includes his back-end bonus deal. I've seen people estimate that his initial offering was in the $200,000 range. Which is about on par with other character's first appearances -- Chris Evans' initial offer in The First Avenger was $300,000 and Chris Hemsworth's first outing as Thor started him at $200,000.

The Black Panther listing mentioned above can't possibly be Boseman's final salary since the movie has yet to be released and, therefore, has no profits accounted for. Which makes that initial list a useless basis of comparison; you're putting apples and oranges in the same bucket. An (ostensibly) initial offer next to initial-offers-plus-a-percentage-of-final-profits.

Now, I am by no means suggesting that what Boseman is paid is fair and/or comparable to any of his peers. I expect that, if we were able to compare everyone's contracts directly, we would see that Boseman is indeed getting a worse deal than his melanin-deficient co-workers. But that $874,000 number isn't an accurate basis for saying that because that's not his final salary.
Newer Post Older Post Home