The New York Times and Slice of Sci Fi, among others, are reporting that James Cameron's new science fiction film Avatar will cost studio 20th Century Fox about $500 million, once you factor in the production budget and the marketing budget. And yet, the studio seems rather chipper about earning a profit on the flick (or else they've bought some really good insurance).
Slice of Sci Fi notes that Cameron did this with his last big flick, the budget-busting Titanic, which scared industry executives with its price tag but which went on to earn untold trillions at the box office. I also remember that when Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Cameron's sequel to the low-budget B-movie Terminator, was coming out, it was also thought to have an astronomical, never-to-be-paid-back budget. T2 cost about $100 million, and it also went on to make gazillions.
So a half-billion sounds like a lot -- I mean, I could think of many cool uses for even half of that -- but Cameron does know how to deliver.