Do Screenwriters Get a Percentage of Box Office?

You’ve probably heard that studios spend millions of dollars for scripts each year. 

And now you’re wondering “How much percentage does a screenwriter receive?” 

In this post, we are going to find out exactly how much screenwriters earn as a percentage of the box office.

Usually screenwriters receive a percentage of the production budget of a film, typically 2%-3%. The percentage is determined by the agreement between the writers and studios. Sometimes the writers earn the WGA minimum of $77,000 if this is what was agreed upon.

When the film is a financial success, everyone involved in the production will gain more benefits including the screenwriters. A screenwriter will be compensated based on the type of script written and credited based on the film’s box office success.

What percentage of the budget does a screenwriter receive?

The percentage a screenwriter receives is determined by the terms of the sale agreement of the script. 

But the majority of screenwriters get paid between 2% and 3% of the production budget of the film. 

Let’s say, a production company’s budget for the project is $2 million. The writer will be paid roughly $1.6 million on the budget (excluding the cost of insurance, which can sometimes total 15-20% of the film’s production budget). 

In this example, the screenwriter would receive anywhere from $32,000 or 2 percent of the budget, to $48,000, or 3 percent of the budget.

Screenwriter compensation

Screenwriters are compensated in a variety of ways:

  1. Percentage of box office
  2. A fixed per-script dollar compensation

Along with the fact that writers must receive at least $50,000

How much do screenplays usually sell for?

A screenplay usually sells depending on how much does your script going to cost to produce or what is the producer’s budget.  However, for the sake of clarity, let’s use the WGA minimum as a starting point.

The WGA minimum is the lowest amount of money a WGA writer can earn for writing a script, but rates rise year after year. In 2020, WGA released a “WGA schedule of minimum” which states the theatrical and television basic agreement. WGA spec script sales ranged from $77,000 to $145,000 so the average will cost around $68,000. The payments for selling a screenplay are done through installments. See the example below: 

     WGA 2020 Theatrical Minimums 

In theatrical rates, the WGA minimum for a screenplay with a budget of $5,000,000 or more is $145,469, on the other hand, the WGA minimum for a screenplay with a budget of $5,000,000 or less is $77,495. There is a price option that will take a minimum of 10% of the script. The cost of week-to-week feature employment is $6,307 per week, although it decreases the more weeks of work you have. The minimum wage would be $4,975 per week.

This is only an inclusive and generalized view of how much screenwriters are paid for feature film scripts, whether they’re spec scripts or assignments. Nevertheless, there are so many things that need to be considered and there are different WGA minimums for everything.

How much does a screenwriter make from a successful movie?

According to the Writers Guild of America West (WGA), the minimum amount a writer can be paid for a feature-length film with a low budget (less than $5 million), excluding treatment, is $41,740. The minimum amount a writer can be paid on a high-budget film (above $5 million) is $85,902. However, a screenwriter could get a bigger rate in case the film is a box office hit.

Like David Koepp, one of the most successful and highest paid screenwriters in the industry. His “Panic Room” earned him a $3 million, “THE SUPERCONDUCTING SUPERCOLLIDER OF SPARKLE CREEK”, “WISCONSIN” is still one extremely costly unproduced spec, selling for $2.25 million. There are other high-paid screenwriters in the film and television industries besides David Koepp.

4. Top 10 World’s Highest-Grossing Screenwriter at Box Office Film

Screenwriting can mean thousands of dollars, particularly if it is a box office hit. Basically, a screenplay typically amounts for one to three percent of a film’s budget; however, when that budget increases, it makes a lot of money. 

So, here is the list of the top 10 world’s highest grossing screenwriters based on the worldwide box office of the movies they worked on.

Top Grossing Screenwriter at the Worldwide Box Office

As you can see, screenwriters write and produce movies that have a global audience. Stephen McFeely, Christopher Markus, and Steve Kloves are the most well-known writers in that role, having contributed to several of the best-known films like Avengers and Harry Potter movie series. 


Overall, there are a variety of ways for screenwriters to get paid and credited in a film, including determining their future income based on the movie’s worldwide release. However, the numbers change significantly every year. So, decide on a career path right now! If you’re an aspiring screenwriter, use it as a stepping stone to meet established industry experts and have your script produced.

Do Screenwriters Get a Percentage of Box Office?
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