Granted Wikipedia is not the most reliable source for information on Hollywood budgets (or really anything) but it claims that Avengers: Infinity War cost Marvel “$325-400 million” and Endgame cost “$356-400 million.” And generally, that’s the range of budgets you see for the movies online. (Maybe everyone else is just using Wikipedia for their numbers.) Combined, that would put the budget of the two movies at approximately $681-800 million total.

That’s an enormous amount of money, but according to one of Infinity War and Endgame’s director Joe Russo, the actual cost of the two films was much higher. Giving a talk to a group of film students at the Sands International Film Festival of St. Andrews (via Deadline) Russo revealed that “each of those movies was $500 million plus.” In other words, the combined price tag for the last two Avengers movies was $1 billion dollars.

Of course, it was an investment that ultimately paid off; the movies grossed a combined $4.7 billion worldwide. And that’s just the money earned in theaters; it doesn’t take into account home video, or cable rights, or any of the millions (or likely billions) that the films earned through merchandising and licensing. Still, $1 billion on two movies is ... a lot of money.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

The subject came up as Russo was explaining some of his philosophies of moviemaking, and in particularly the importance of surprising audiences — which can be very tricky to do when there’s half a billion dollars riding on the surprise. Here’s how Russo explained it:

When you surprise people, you tend to have a more profound impact on them. So if your expectations are met, you can succeed to a certain level. But if they’re subverted, you can succeed to an even higher level. The trick with that is it’s very risky, cause we’re talking about in the case of … you know, I don’t know if these numbers have ever been accurately reported but in the case of Avengers: Endgame or Infinity War, each of those movies was $500 million plus. So this is an incredible amount of money that is being spent on these films. And you have responsibility, if you have a conscience to in some way deliver a return on that investment for the people that gave you that money. So it is risky to say ‘Hey we got a crazy idea, here’s how we can subvert expectations but we’re going to take your two most popular characters and we’re going to have them try to kill each other.’

Russo also explained that there were some within Marvel who were very resistant to his and his brother’s preferred ending to Captain America: Civil War, which involved Iron Man and Captain America coming to blows, and many of the other Avengers winding up imprisoned and others left as fugitives on the run from the law. According to Russo, the tension over whether or not to proceed with a more conventional ending resulted in he and his brother almost quitting the movie in protest.

Ultimately, the decision was made to go along with their ideas, and Civil War became a huge hit, paving the way for the bigger risks in Infinity War and Endgame. Still, imagine betting a couple hundred million dollars on an ending you think will surprise and delight audiences. That’s gotta be pretty intense.

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