‘I Love Lucy’: Here’s How Much Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Made During the Show’s Run

by Emily Morgan

“I Love Lucy” lasted for six seasons and is still regarded as one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time. Starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the show focused on the relationship of husband and wife, Desi and Lucy, and the shenanigans Lucy would get into with her best friend, Ethel.

Both Ball and Arnaz made a fortune (even by today’s standards) due to the success of “I Love Lucy.”

Even though Ball and Arnaz divorced in 1960 after a 20-year marriage, their on-screen marriage helped make the show memorable and unlike any other. The show broke records, boundaries and set a new standard for sitcom comedies.

How ‘I Love Lucy’ Made the Stars Both Famous & Wealthy

No other show was doing what “I Love Lucy” was doing at the time— which, lucky for Ball and Arnaz, made the couple not only famous but extremely wealthy.

In total, Ball and Arnaz earned over $256 million (in today’s economy) while working on the show, according to Screen Rant. This number includes everything from the production process to the show itself.

Even though they’ve passed away, the show is still raking in millions. Every year CBS brings in millions when it airs “I Love Lucy” reruns and specials.

It’s undeniable that the show made Lucy and Desi instant celebrities. In addition, they ended up owning their own production company that produced “I Love Lucy” and “The Lucy Show.”

Ball and Arnaz made so much money on the show because they could retain ownership rights to “I Love Lucy.”

While negotiating with CBS, they knew they wanted to shoot the show on film instead of kinescope since it was less expensive.

In fact, the couple felt so strongly about using film that they agreed to take a pay cut. As a result, CBS gave them full ownership rights and decided to work with their new production company, Desilu Productions, to create episodes.

According to MeTV, Ball and Arnaz made $4,000 a week ($2,000 each) for every episode. While this is not even close to what actors make today, their salaries combined made them quite wealthy for the times.

As their salaries more than likely increased as the show became more popular. As reported, they filmed 180 episodes at $4,000 for each one, which made the couple some of the highest-paid actors in the ’50s.