By The Numbers

The money behind ‘The Great Gatsby:’ From Fitzgerald to the adaptations

Daryl Paranada May 1, 2013
By The Numbers

The money behind ‘The Great Gatsby:’ From Fitzgerald to the adaptations

Daryl Paranada May 1, 2013

Director Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel “The Great Gatsby” is set to be released May 7.

The film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, reportedly has a budget of $104.5 million and is scheduled to open the 66th Cannes Film Festival, before receiving a wide release in 3-D and 2-D formats.

Whether the film’s producers will get a good return on their investment remains to be seen, but the money behind the movie got us wondering about the finances behind Fitzgerald, his famous novel, and its film adaptations.

Fitzgerald’s profits: $219,529.02 today

Notes in a ledger from Fitzgerald show that when the first edition of Gatsby was published, he received only $1,981.85 for the novel. Fitzgerald sold the “moving picture” rights to his novel for $16,666.

He notes there was “com 10% (twice)” (two 10 percent commissions) in his ledger, which brings his total amount down to $13,500. In 1927 he writes about additional payments of $2,910.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator, that makes his movie proceeds about $219,529.02 today.

What about the films?

1926 film: Unknown

The only film that opened during Fitzgerald’s lifetime, this iteration of “The Great Gatsby” was a silent film starring Warner Baxter and Lois Wilson. Unfortunately, the film is lost and so is data on its budget. But this trailer still survives:


1949 film: Unknown

Released by Paramount Pictures, this adaptation stars Alan Ladd as Jay Gatsby. We couldn’t find data on costs, but we do know that in 1949 movie tickets cost just $0.46.


1974 film: $26 million earned

Starring Robert Redford, this film adaptation had a budget of around $7 million, earning $26,533,200 domestically.

(An opera composed by John Harbison and a TV film starring Toby Stephens and Mira Sorvino were released in 1999 and 2000)


2013 film: $104.5 million budget

 A budget of $104.5 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Location subsidies in Australia brought the film’s costs down from $190 million. You can watch a trailer for the film below.


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