In Hollywood, men almost always earn more money than women, especially on the big screen. The only time that benefits the actresses is when you crunch the numbers to figure out which stars offer the best return on investment for the studios.
Our 2013 list is dominated by young women. These actresses, for the most part, are up and comers who can’t yet demand the $10 million paychecks a few of their older counterparts (and many of their male colleagues) collect upfront to perform in a film. That makes these women great investments.
Much of that is thanks to The Amazing Spider-Man. The 2012 movie was one of the highest-grossing of the year, earning $752 million at the global box office. Sony was able to hire Stone on the cheap to play Gwen Stacy the first time around, but the studio is paying her a lot more for the sequel.
To compile our list we looked at the last three movies each actor starred in over the three years to June 1, 2013. We did not count voice work because actors always take less pay to do cartoons and those films tend to make lots of money. Plus the actors aren’t really the main draw. So for Stone, we’re not counting her work in The Croods, which was a big hit for DreamWorks Animation.
Taking a star’s pay on a film, and the movie’s estimated budget, box-office receipts and DVD sales, we calculated a return on investment number, and then averaged the numbers for their last three films to get an overall return.
Ranking second behind Stone is Mila Kunis, with an average return of $68.70 for every $1 she was paid. Kunis had two huge hits in the past two years: Ted and Oz The Great and Powerful. We estimate that between June 2012 and June 2013 she earned $11 million, which was enough to land her on our most recent Celebrity 100. Like Stone, Kunis is now in a position to start demanding much more money per film. That will likely ding her return on investment number.
Jennifer Lawrence ranks third on our list with a return of $68.60 for every $1 she was paid. It’s not a surprise to see Lawrence on this list. She’s probably the most in-demand actress in Hollywood today thanks to her blockbuster work in The Hunger Games and her Oscar-winning performance in Silver Linings Playbook. Lawrence was initially paid less than $1 million upfront for the first Hunger Games movie. She earned a lot more for Catching Fire, but that film hit theaters after our time frame.
The top-ranked man on our list is Dwayne Johnson in sixth place. His films earned the most at the box office in 2013 of any actor’s, which means his paycheck is about to get much bigger. But looking back over the past three years, he’s been one of the most cost-effective performers in Hollywood. We estimate that for every $1 he was paid Johnson returned $31.10. Natalie Portman ranks fifth with $31.30.
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