Metallica’s $30 Million 3-D Movie Breaks Records

Photographer: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

James Hetfield, left, and Kirk Hammett of the band Metallica. Close

James Hetfield, left, and Kirk Hammett of the band Metallica.

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Photographer: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

James Hetfield, left, and Kirk Hammett of the band Metallica.

The lights are blinding, the sweat is flying and it’s loud. Very loud.

For a fan of Metallica, it’s close to fulfilling the impossible wish: to be right on stage with the rockers as they tear through their greatest hits.

A film using advanced 3D technology captures the band, which has sold more than 110 million records, in full flight. The earth-rumbling sound comes with giant props and lasers.

Sweat pours off guitarist Kirk Hammett as he shreds lightning-fast solos during “One.” Singer James Hetfield prods the crowd into the fan-favorite chant of “Die! Die!” for “Creeping Death.” Lars Ulrich smashes his drums with glee in every single song.

“Metallica Through the Never” shows that if you want to make money, say the rockers in Metallica, there’s no better way than to risk some cash -- even a lot of it.

The musicians spent at least $20 million of their own capital on a project that many in the business said was commercial suicide. They are watching it break box-office records now: It had a $1.7 million opening weekend, the best for a concert film in IMAX theaters.

Directed by Nimrod Antal (“Kontroll,” “Predators”), the film adds a dramatic narrative, featuring Dane DeHaan (who will play Green Goblin in the next Spider-Man film) as a roadie on a quest to recover a mysterious package.

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Robert Trujillo of Metallica. Close

Robert Trujillo of Metallica.

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Photographer: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Robert Trujillo of Metallica.

Studio Interview

“When I sat down and tried to explain to people in Hollywood that we wanted to do a concert film that has a story to it with actors, they were looking at me like I came from another planet,” Metallica drummer and co-founder Ulrich said in an interview at the band’s studio in San Francisco.

Ulrich declined to say exactly how much the film cost. He told Howard Stern in a radio interview in April last year that the budget was $20 million. In a video posted on Metallica’s Facebook page on Sept. 11, Peter Mensch, one of Metallica’s managers, is seen discussing with the band ways to save $2 million in order to get the film’s budget down to $30 million.

“It depends on what you count,” Ulrich said. “Are you counting the promotion, the marketing, the live record, the stage that we’ll continue to use in future tours? This is way north of eight figures. It’s a lot for us.”

It was the biggest single expense in the band’s history, more than the combined budgets of all their records to date, Marc Reiter, one of Metallica’s managers at Q Prime, said in an interview in the band’s fan club magazine, “So What.” Q Prime also invested an undisclosed amount in the film.

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Lars Ulrich of Metallica. Close

Lars Ulrich of Metallica.

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Photographer: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Lars Ulrich of Metallica.

“Through the Never” grossed $3.4 million as of Oct. 20, according to Box Office Mojo. Justin Bieber’s “Never Say Never” is the highest grossing concert movie ever with $73 million in the U.S., according to the website.

The movie was shot over five days at hockey arenas in Vancouver and Edmonton with dozens of cameras. The soundtrack, released under Metallica’s own label, Blackened, is easily the best recording of a live show in the band’s 32-year career.

Muse highlights include Manuela Hoelterhoff on opera, Ryan Sutton on U.S. food, Jeremy Gerard on U.S. theater and Amanda Gordon’s Scene Last Night.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gelu Sulugiuc in Copenhagen at gsulugiuc@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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