When it comes to making a mint from movies, few hit the big time. But with the right combination of a great story, acting talent and, crucially, the right funding—some people get very, very rich indeed.
Ultra-high net-worth intelligence firm Wealth-X has released a list of the American film industry’s richest individuals.
“Certainly the list is a veritable cinematic Mount Rushmore of some of the most notable producers/directors and tastemakers of all time,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Rentrak, told CNBC.
The producers and directors on this Hollywood Rich List control more than $20 billion of personal wealth, according to the research.
Here, CNBC takes at look at Hollywood’s top movie moguls, ranked in terms of wealth.
Estimated net worth: $670 million
Famous movies include: “Avatar,” “Titanic”
“Avatar” (2009) and “Titanic” (1997), both directed and written by James Cameron, grossed $2.7 billion and $2.1 billion at the box office respectively, according to data from Box Office Mojo, making them the first and second-highest grossing movie ever.
The 60 year-old Canadian-born director moved to the U.S. in 1971 and first found success with “The Terminator,” the 1984 blockbuster which he also wrote and directed. Following that, he had a string of hits including “Aliens,” “True Lies,” “Titanic,” and, most recently, his science-fiction epic, “Avatar.”
“James Cameron has an almost preternatural ability to know and understand what audiences crave when they go to the movie theater,” Rentrak’s Dergarabedian told CNBC.
He has been nominated for six Academy Awards overall.
Estimated net worth: $720 million
Famous movies include: “Forrest Gump”
note: My Little Pony Movie
Steve Tisch’s blockbuster hit, “Forrest Gump,” was based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Winston Groom. It was released in 1994 and starred Tom Hanks.
The movie grossed $677.9 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo, and Tisch received a Best Motion Picture Academy Award and a Golden Globe for the movie. It was nominated for 13 Academy Awards and won six.
Tisch is also chairman and executive vice president of the New York Giants.
Estimated net worth: $850 million
Famous movies include: “Top Gun,” “Pirates of the Caribbean”
note: Sand Dune Movie
American movie and TV producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, is a doyenne of the industry, with over 40 movie to his name including “Armageddon,” “Flashdance,” “Beverley Hills Cop,” “Pearl Harbor” and “Black Hawk Down.”
His most famous pictures, perhaps, are “Top Gun,” which starred Tom Cruise and grossed $356.8 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. More recently, the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, starring Johnny Depp, have been big hits. He also produced the popular CSI: Crime Scene Investigation series.
“Rarely does anyone in Hollywood have the staying power that Bruckheimer has exhibited,” Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at movie information company Exhibitor Relations, told CNBC.
“Now in his fourth decade in the business and he’s still reaping the benefits of big-budget franchise films.”
Estimated net worth: $870 million
Famous movies include: “The Hangover,” “300″
New York-born Thomas Tull has produced several major movies including “The Hangover,” “300″ and the “Batman Dark Knight” trilogy. He is currently the chairman and chief executive of Legendary Pictures.
He started his business career with a chain of laundromats before entering the entertainment industry, when he founded Legendary Pictures in 2000 after raising $600 million from private equity firms.
“Go big or go home. Tull has been involved on the producing end of some of Hollywood’s biggest hits over the last decade,” box office analyst Bock said.
Estimated net worth: $910 million
Famous movies include: “The Lion King,” “Shrek”
note: after 3 Movie
The chief executive of Dreamworks Animation—the behemoth of animated hits—is Jeffrey Katzenberg.
He was also the chairman of Walt Disney Studios from 1984 to 1994, overseeing hits including “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King,” which grossed $987.4 million worldwide, Box Office Mojo data showed.
Estimated net worth: $1 billion
Famous movies include: “The Social Network,” “Little Fockers”
note: Deadly Induction Movie
Ryan Kavanaugh, aka the “Billion Dollar Producer”, is an American movies producer and financier from Los Angeles.
He has produced over 200 movies through his Relativity Media company, which he founded, earning him his nickname and reputation as a revenue-busting producer.
“Securing funds for movies is one of the most important aspects of the movie-making industry, and Kavanaugh is one of the best at it,” Exhibitor Relations’ Bock added.
Estimated net worth: $1.9 billion
Famous movies: ”The Vow”
The grandson of media baron William Randolph Hearst and younger brother of former venture capital investor William Randolph Hearst III, Austin Hearst is part of a dynasty of media owners.
He runs the media giant, Hearst Corporation, which owns numerous newspapers including the Houston Chronicle and the San Francisco Chronicle and magazines including Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, ELLE and O. It also owns 29 television stations.
Hearst was the executive producer of “The Vow”, a romantic drama released in 2012 — one of the only movie production credits to his name.
Estimated net worth: $5.4 billion
Famous movies include: Star Wars series
George Lucas tops Wealth-X’s Hollywood rich list, with a fortune of $5.4 billion, mostly derived from revenue from the Star Wars franchise and the sale of LucasFilm to Disney for $4 billion in 2012.
Unlike other directors and producers, Lucas, 70, has directed only six feature films over the course of his career—four of which were Star Wars movies. In contrast, Steven Spielberg has directed more than 30 feature movies,
“His genius turned out to be securing the rights to his films and merchandising, and thus the entire Star Wars Universe, which turned out to be the keys to his financial kingdom,” box office analyst Bock told CNBC.
“These days, studios don’t give away merchandising and character rights, as they realize that those are precisely the gifts that keep on giving.”