James Gunn: Marvel and DC Can’t Do Small Budget Movies like Brightburn

Guardians of the Galaxy and The Suicide Squad director James Gunn, who produces low-budget superhero horror Brightburn, says Disney-owned Marvel and Warner Bros.-owned DC are “just not set up” for smaller budgeted movies.

“I don’t think that big studios are set up to make a movie with a budget in the mere millions. I think a big risk for Marvel and DC would be, like, a $50 million R-rated Punisher movie or whatever,” Gunn told Screen Rant.

“I think that would be great. But I think that to do something like this, once you get that studio thing happening, it adds another $20 million — which we couldn’t afford with this. This was a very low-budget film, and luckily we had great people working on it. A company by the name of Trixter who did the visual effects and were amazing, who did a lot of the visual effects for Guardians 2. But I think they’re just not set up to do it.”

Even Marvel Studios’ more modestly budgeted blockbusters — Ant-Man and sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp both carried $130 million price tags, the lowest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — are leagues ahead of Brightburn: the Sony and Screen Gems release is reportedly budgeted at just $6 million.

Fox, when it held the rights to Marvel’s X-Men property and ancillary characters, produced 2016’s Deadpool for $58 million. And Warner Bros.’ least expensive DC Extended Universe effort, Shazam!, still cost in the neighborhood of $100 million.

But Marvel Studios, who spent upwards of $450,000 a day when making Avengers: Infinity War, has shown no interest in spending little. Early in the independent studio’s history, Marvel still spent $140m and $150m, respectively, on then-lesser known superheroes Captain America and Thor in their first outings in 2011.

And the studio will next dip into its pockets on numerous live-action Disney+ series — The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, and Loki — each rumored to carry $100 million budgets. Those series are set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and will be led by its many movie stars, including Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, and Tom Hiddleston.

When asked in 2018 if Marvel would consider small-to-medium budgeted productions, Feige indicated Marvel would stick to delivering tentpoles and big-budget “spectacle.”


“We love the idea of playing with genres, and playing with different kinds of genres... but I think even as we play with those kinds of genres it’s within the overarching sense that this is the MCU, and there is a certain amount of price-of-admission spectacle that I want to be entertained by,” Feige told CinemaBlend.

“And [Black] Panther is a great example, and [Avengers:] Infinity War, and [Ant-Man and The Wasp].”