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Why Brad Pitt is 11% of 'The Big Short'

Wall Street-based movie "The Big Short" has a lot of talk about collateralized debt obligations, so we decided to turn the movie itself into one, slicing and dicing it into its component parts. Where's the real value in the movie?

The movie is set for a limited release this weekend, with a wider national opening Dec. 23. Just Thursday, the movie earned four Golden Globe nominations. A big part of the plot relates to CDOs. That's a financial strategy to take an asset, slice and repackage it into smaller components, so that each one of those has its own tradeable value.

What if we told you that Brad Pitt's value to the movie was $8.8 million? That's his CDO "slice" of the film.

This is the work of Bruce Nash, who runs his Hollywood-based company The-Numbers.com. His mathematical analysis of movies is the kind of information producers and investors pay for, so they can make casting decisions and assess the value of a project.

According to The-Numbers, "The Big Short" has a "bankability" score of $82.6 million. That's based on the value of each individual actor in the cast and technical member of the crew.

The biggest contributor to that value is Pitt. On the cast side, he's followed by Steve Carell at $6.8 million and Christian Bale at $3.6 million. Director Adam McKay is worth $3.2 million. Click the chart below for detailed data on how the film's cast and crew add value.

Each of these numbers is based on a massive mathematical analysis of every movie's box office gross, together with every person involved in the movie. When Nash collects thousands of movies and individuals, he can then break down the individual value for each person's contribution.

Surprisingly, Ryan Gosling is only worth $1.4 million. "He's quite a prolific and solid performer at the box office but hasn't been in any film that has been a real breakout hit," Nash said. "His biggest global hit was 'Crazy, Stupid, Love' back in 2011, which made 'only' $147 million worldwide."

Some people might wonder why so many of the technical crew members have such a high value.

"People tend to work together a lot, as one director will often work with the same cinematographer, editor, production designer, et cetera," Nash said. "It's that combination that produces what we think of as a 'Steven Spielberg film,' or a 'Martin Scorsese' film. The bankability methodology spreads the value across those different people, which ends up giving a high score when they all come together on a single film."

For comparison, the $82.6 million bankability of "The Big Short" puts it right in line with the $82.3 million value given to "The Wolf of Wall Street." "Remarkably, the two films come out at almost the same bankability," Nash said. "That is roughly what we would expect the film to make at the domestic box office. 'Wolf' overperformed a bit with $117 million."

Nash suggested that anything between $50 million and $100 million would be a par score, "given this level of talent," while a number lower than $50 million "would definitely be a disappointment."

As of Thursday, traders on the Hollywood Stock Exchange predict the film will earn about $32 million in its first four weeks of wide release. That should be enough to get it over $50 million in its full domestic run. Overall it's not all that high, falling well short of the predictions for the "Alvin" movie and "Zoolander No. 2."

Wall Street-based movies for the most part don't bring in large grosses. Only four movies we tracked, out of 21, had an inflation-adjusted domestic gross over $100 million. "Trading Places" led the way. Even the 1987 classic "Wall Street" earned $44 million at the time, which equals about $71 million in today's dollars.