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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Should movies have a salary cap like some sports do?

Tom Cruise makes more money over breakfast than you will make all year

Today’s question comes from reader @SuperHDJ, who writes:

Like some sports has a salary cap, how would you feel if movies had one?

I’m not really sure how this would work in movies, where almost everyone is a freelancer, not an employee. The big studios and the small production companies don’t have “rosters” like teams do, and there’s a much wider disparity between studio films and indies than there is across teams in an athletic league that are competing directly with one another. The well-paid New York Yankees play actual games against the somewhat less-well-paid Oakland A’s, and so there needs to be some parity in the teams’ potential abilities. But the latest accretion of Michael Bay ’splosions is not going after the same audience as a movie about Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith having tea together, so there’s no need for parity between them.

Anyway, it’s not salaries that create the disparity between two such films: it’s FX, which are very expensive, and marketing, which can double a film’s costs, which is how we end up with CGI blockbusters advertised and promoted globally that can end up requiring a quarter of a billion dollars to make and market. Capping the salaries of individual members of the army of FX specialists a big film demands wouldn’t significantly change the cost of a film, not when a production could simply hire more people earning less money. Capping an overall FX budget — as well as capping marketing budgets — would bring the costs of my two example films more in line with each other.

But who would enforce such a cap? Why would anyone agree to such caps? I can’t see it happening… and I’m not sure it would make any difference.

I suspect that @SuperHDJ is referring only to salary caps for actors in his question, but we’re seeing that the market is naturally bringing down outrageous salaries. No one is getting a $20 million or $25 million paycheck anymore, since stars appear to no longer be the selling points of films. Some actors are still earning huge incomes, but often it’s because they’re getting profit sharing on a film in addition to a smaller upfront salary. If salary caps are hard to imagine, any restrictions on profit sharing seem even less likely to justify.

What do you think? Should movies have a salary cap like some sports do?
(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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