Christopher Nolan may be in line for Oscar gold this Sunday, but he’s already swimming in gold thanks to a reportedly lucrative deal for “Oppenheimer.”

According to a report in Forbes, Nolan made an estimated $72 million, pre-taxes, on the enormous success of “Oppenheimer.” They’re also suggesting that’s the net total, and that he really earned $85 million but is subtracting the amount he would pay to his agents and lawyers. That is a staggering number and near unheard of in Hollywood except for the absolute top echelon of movie stars and filmmakers.

Forbes reported that Universal as part of its deal to win the rights to “Oppenheimer” agreed to give Nolan 15 percent of first-dollar gross on the film, which means he gets a share of everything the movie earns even before the studio recoups its expenses. They claim he originally asked for 20 percent, but settled on 15, and the remaining five percent could have gone to Emma Thomas, Nolan’s wife and long-time producing partner, as part of her deal.

The article also explains that when it comes to first-dollar gross deals, any fees you earn upfront act as an advance on your back-end participation. So Nolan, in order to remain under the movie’s $100 million budget (a small budget compared to what he’s previously commanded), even reduced his own directing, writing, and producing fees on “Oppenheimer” so he could maximize what he earned on the back end. He made the right call.

Forbes’ calculation comes from the $957 million “Oppenheimer” made at the global box office, but it also factors in what Nolan would get from home video sales through Blu-Ray or PVOD and for licensing it to streaming (in this case Peacock), both of which are numbers that aren’t public. Forbes didn’t break down their math, but it assumes half of the box office goes to movie theaters (it could be less of a profit share in that opening weekend), so half of $478.5 million multiplied by .15 already gets you to roughly $72 million. Factor in everything else for home video and streaming licensing, and yeah, we can see how that number adds up quick.

Universal did not respond to a request for comment. An agent rep for Nolan had no comment.

As Forbes notes, first-dollar gross deals are nearly unheard of today for most stars, though Forbes says Tom Cruise got 12.5 percent for the last “Mission: Impossible” movie, and even for directors, only top earners like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and Peter Jackson can command such authority. There’s no doubt Nolan is in that group, and if he wins the Oscar for Best Director, he’ll be able to do whatever and get whatever he wants for his next movie.

Universal’s deal with Nolan wasn’t notable just because of the dollar value. Nolan also negotiated a lengthy theatrical window for “Oppenheimer,” he fought for three weeks of exclusivity in IMAX theaters (much to the chagrin of Cruise), and he even got Universal not to release anything in the few weeks before and after “Oppenheimer” to give it a long runway (though that didn’t stop “Barbie” from latching on to that same date).

Universal was able to wrestle Nolan away from his long-time home at Warner Bros. after the now former regime at the studio launched its Project Popcorn experiment during the pandemic. The studio decided to put all of its 2021 movies into theaters and onto HBO Max day-and-date as a means of both supplying a stream of content to theaters during the pandemic but also to boost HBO Max subscribers. Nolan made his frustration known, all this after he pushed to have Warner Bros. release “Tenet” in theaters in 2020 (it still grossed $365 million globally), and his run of films with WB was done.

Nolan did say that with the new film team in charge at WB, the whole thing is water under the bridge. But even with such a filmmaker-friendly arrangement, Universal won’t let him go so easily for whatever Nolan’s next movie turns out to be.

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