Expense was once a selling point for movies. Old fashioned epics crowed about their casts of thousands and how much money was spent on bringing an ancient era to life. That all began changing with the fiasco of Cleopatra, and it’s seemingly dead forever in this stockholder era: nobody wants to be the guy who greenlit the most expensive movie ever made, especially if it doesn’t come close to making back its budget.

So nowadays the studios downplay their budgets. You rarely get the truth from them; most estimates come in tens of millions of dollars under (even as they juke the books behind the scenes to keep from getting too profitable and having to pay money to partners!), and when a number that sounds real escapes, the studios shit and makes everybody take it back.

One such number hit in this lengthy Time Magazine article about James Cameron’s Avatar, which pegged the budget at 300 million or more. Today there’s a retraction:

The original version of this story misstated the cost of the film Avatar as being in excess of $300 million. The correct figure is in excess of $200 million.

Yeah, who really believes that? They’re probably shuffling papers to put R&D costs for the 3D – which is the whole focus of the article – away from the film’s budget. But there’s simply no way that Avatar cost less than Spider-Man 3, which clocked in north of 300 million.

The rest of the article is the usual 3D sermonizing that Jeffrey Katzenberg et al like to do. Remember kids: the reason everybody wants to make 3D movies isn’t because it enhances storytelling. The movies won’t be better. They’ll just be harder to pirate.