Just to clarify on this: all of the costs preceding the actual production on TMP, from GR's office space for several years to the setbuilding for phase 2 and work that went into TITANS and pay-or-play contracts for cast, only came to maybe 5 mil of the total cost of the film. That's a figure from the PM on TMP, who was there for over a year, in an interview he did around the time the film debuted, that appeared in the RETURN TO TOMORROW book published several years back. He also estimated that the budget on the film stood at 37 mil (presumably counting that 5 mil worth of false starts) as of September 79 when he left. Given all the insane postprod OT/triple-time/whatever in the last several weeks for VFX and sound and such, it's easy to see that bumping up to 44 or 46 or even 50 mil. If that 37 didn't count the 5 mil of false starts, then it is easy to believe the actual cost is north of 50.One point worth mentioning: while the budget was $15 million as stated in the article, it didn't "spiral out of control" to the tune of $44 million. That number actually includes all the development costs from attempting earlier theatrical films with writers as varied as Ray Bradbury, Ted Sturgeon, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg and John D.F. Black. Philip Kaufman was attached to an early version called Star Trek: Planet of Titans written by Chris Bryant and Allan Scott; after this version failed to get off the ground, Paramount shifted gears and decided to turn the project into a TV series called Star Trek Phase II that would anchor a proposed Paramount Television Network. The combination of a script deemed worthy of a feature film and the reality that a fourth television network was not economically viable for the cost of such a project sent it back to feature film development. There were budget overruns when Robert Abel and Associates was not capable of delivering as promised on special effects, but nowhere near the final quoted budget figure of $44 million. The final cost of the film itself was likely closer to $20 million. Welcome to Hollywood accounting.
Other aspect to keep in mind in going up from the 15mil budget: that was based on a main-unit shoot duration that was nearly doubled a week or two after filming began. So right there, you're looking at a bump-up of at least a few mil -- and that revised schedule was still not met, with filming, which began in August, extending into 1979, and that doesn't count additional photography later in 79, for the Epsilon 9 filming, the SanFran tram station, the Klingon opening or the reshot spacewalk. And you've got millions lost with the Robert Abel end of VFX (4 mil is very much the low end, it was probably closer to double that), which get multiplied when you have the huge VFX crunch with the new vendors brought on in the last year.
TMP and TMP vfx have been a longtime hobby of mine; I've probably interviewed over two dozen vets of the film in the last 30 years, including Trumbull, Dykstra (multiple times) and more than a few people who started with Abel and transitioned over to the new teams, including the guy who shot the mo-con potato element that I guess was what made Wise blow his top when he finally forced Abel to show them some footage after a year of stalling, which led directly to his ouster. I'm not saying a making-of film about this movie has the potential that one about the formation of ILM for STAR WARS does (I've already written a spec on the latter, and it is pretty funny in a RKO281 meets BARBARIANS AT THE GATE kind of way), but there's just so much weirdness to the project that I still find it 'strangely compelling,' as Kirk once said.