Guardians of the Galaxy Falls Victim to Hollywood Accounting (But James Gunn Isn't Complaining)

By Russ Milheim Updated:
Guardians of the Galaxy, Hollywood Sign, James Gunn Profits

James Gunn is certainly a hot commodity in the industry right now. The famous director's newest film The Suicide Squad debuted to fantastic reviews and fan response. He even has a new show for HBO Max on the horizonPeacemaker, which continues to build John Cena's DCU story.

What really made Gunn big, however, was his work for Marvel Studios. Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the most beloved MCU films to date, and it made the Guardians one of the most famous groups of comic book characters in existence. It's kind of hard to believe that they were once obscure characters.

The sequel to that film went on to do even better, adding new faces to the team while saying goodbye to some familiar ones. These ragtag groups of outlaws are embedded in the hearts of MCU fans across the world, all thanks to the work of James Gunn and his love for the characters.

With the fame and success that came with the Guardians franchise under Gunn's direction, one would think that those films are more than profitable, right? Well, think again.

Guardians of the Galaxy vs. Accounting

James Gunn, Drax

Squid Game is all the rage right now on Netflix, and with its popularity, James Gunn's previous movie The Belko Experiment came into a discussion on Twitter. This then quickly led the director to admit that he found more monetary success with that film than either of the Guardians movies.

In response to a user advocating that The Belko Experiment should have been a series, Gunn mentioned that "it's the only movie [he's] made that... made a profit:"

"It was a hit. So far it's the only movie I've made that, according to the incredibly complicated books of Hollywood films, made a profit and from which I get profit residual checks."

The famous director continued on to say that while "most of [his] films have been profitable... Hollywood accounting is a strange beast:"

"Let me be clear - most of my films have been profitable, some incredibly so. But Hollywood accounting is a strange beast."

Another Twitter user asked if he got any checks for his work from Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, to which Gunn responded that he's gotten "tons of residual check, just not profit participation checks:"

"I get tons of residual checks, just not profit participation checks, & I get paid unbelievably well. I'm not complaining."

Someone else joined the conversation and tried to clarify if Gunn was saying that neither of the Guardians films were profitable. In his final response, James Gunn says that "both [films] were enormously profitable:"

"They both were enormously profitable but Hollywood accounting has an unusual way of adding up those numbers."

James Gunn is Fine With Guardians' Success

When it comes to how much a film makes, and its profitability, it's quite a complicated venture. While movies such as Guardians of the Galaxy rake in a lot of money, the studios add in so much extra overhead (production, distribution, marketing, etc.) that it makes the profit of the project disappear on paper—even if it made plenty, and checked all the boxes for the studio.

While the Guardians films made enough profit for Disney and Marvel Studios, they did not make enough to give the director a profit participation check. Hollywood's way of calculating profits can be strange, and sometimes controversial. 

Nevertheless, the good thing for Gunn is that he also gets residual checks on top of his originally agreed upon payment for making the films, which aren't from the net profit of the film, but rather from home media and syndication.

As for whether or not James Gunn's next MCU film will turn a profit, fans will have to wait until May 5, 2023, to see if Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 fares better. Fingers crossed for James Gunn's bank account.

- About The Author: Russ Milheim
Russ Milheim is the Industry Relations Coordinator at The Direct. On top of utilizing his expertise on the many corners of today’s entertainment to cover the latest news and theories, he establishes and maintains communication and relations between the outlet and the many studio and talent representatives.