'Shazam!' Director on the Benefits of a Smaller Budget

In the age of superhero films as billion-dollar blockbusters with budgets ranging in the hundreds of millions, Shazam! is an anomaly. New Line Cinema produced the film on a budget estimated to be in the range of $80-100 million, about half the budget of the last major DC Comics movie, Aquaman. Shazam! is off to a strong start at the box office. Could its smaller budget have contributed to the film’s success? Director David F. Sandberg comes from a low budget filmmaking background. He says having even the budget of Shazam! was a learning experience requiring him to grow out of some of his old habits.

“I still would’ve taken on the challenge, but yeah, the higher the budget, the bigger the risk of failure,” Sandberg tells The Hollywood Reporter. “So, it certainly feels safer and more comfortable with having a somewhat lower budget. We just would’ve been more comfortable rather than anything. For example, we could’ve shot the carnival indoors. Talking to people on set who had worked on bigger movies, they were basically saying that if this had twice the budget, we wouldn’t be out in the middle of the night in Toronto winter shooting all of the carnival stuff, because you could just build a replica of that carnival indoors. When we first started talking about how to shoot all these things, I was in my sort of normal low-budget mode and thinking, ‘Well, we could just cheat it like this’ or ‘We don’t have to actually do that.’ The line producer, Jeffrey Chernov, actually took me aside and said, ‘As a line producer, I don’t usually say this, but you should think bigger. You don’t have to think so much in the low budget that you’re used to.’ Then, I felt more free to just come up with cool shit until he eventually said, ‘Okay, that’s too big. Let’s scale it back a little bit.’”

Shazam! stars Zachary Levi as the titular hero, the superpowered alter ego of the young Bill Batson, played by Asher Angel. The film opened in first place at the box office with $53 million for the weekend. Shazam! also earned an A CinemaScore, matching Wonder Woman for the best CinemaScore of all the DC Extended Universe movies. Shazam! has a 91% fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating. That's the second-highest of all the DC Extended Universe movies and a mere two percentage points behind Wonder Woman.

What did you think of Shazam!? Could it have used a bigger budget? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Shazam! is now in theaters. Other upcoming DC Extended Universe movies include Birds of Prey on February 7, 2020, Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5, 2020, The Batman on June 25, 2021, and The Suicide Squad on August 6, 2021.

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