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article imageOp-Ed: All-time box office champ is really 'Gone With the Wind'

By Tim O'Brien     Jan 17, 2014 in Entertainment
UPDATE 1.19.14: Enter another curve ball. The average ticket prices just jumped, after falling earlier this year. The average ticket price is now $8.35.
This time of the year seems to be a good occasion to iron out and explain why inflation is not always used in stories, as far as the box office is concerned.
Well, for one thing, if it was, that subject needs to be addressed in things such as concerts, record sales and the like, too. Inflation adjusted pricing doesn't just affect the movies. Add in concerts and sporting events where one team and performer could set a record for money earned but less people actually saw the show or event. With escalating prices, that will happen.
However, with a weekly box office report, it comes up more. For example, the previous year set a record for revenue, but did it really? See here. The author has a valid point and that is — it is messy. But did the box office set a record? No, if one takes in inflation. But, yes, if it's just money earned. Less people are watching movies but the money is growing. That makes sense since ticket prices have risen. One could say the same thing about baseball. Less people could be watching or attending games, but revenue could rise.
The good thing is that there is a list for all of these, and more. But, the main one is the domestic and then the worldwide figures. Taking a ticket price from 1980 and such and then comparing it to today's prices just doesn't make sense on a daily or weekly basis. One would have to do that for all events. That is why the report should stay consistent.
TV ratings fall into a problem as well. Some will opt to call a show a winner for the night when, in reality, it is only for a certain demographic, like 18-49. A champ on one level but maybe not with overall viewers. Plus, a show that reached over 100 million in the early 1980s like "MASH," was seen by more people, percentage wise, than one that reaches that number today. There are more people on the planet now. There was a greater impact for The Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show" back in 1964 than the finales of "American Idol" in its heyday. More people can watch now with less impact than before and the viewership is spread across many other outlets and devices.
A show can survive longer with lower ratings than before as well. Shows with viewerships below an average of 10 million are thriving in today's marketplace. For music, the downloading has muddied up that record keeping so much, the golden age of the Billboard charts have long passed. The way in which people listen and buy music has changed so much, the charts are almost meaningless these days to most who used to track them. Getting 6 million views on You Tube or having a song downloaded one million times is not the same as actually owning a physical copy of it.
The standard threshold for a platinum and gold record is now a mess. And that standard is different in the U.S. and the U.K. In music, money made is taken into consideration as well. If prices have gone up from the 1950s, surely it would be easier to achieve gold or platinum status now than before. For example, platinum status is one million copies sold with $2 million in sales at the manufacturer’s wholesale price. If the album price is now $14.99 vs, let's say, $3.49 back in the 1960s, achieving that sales figure would be easier today.
Concert tickets sales could raise eyebrows as well. Ticket prices for a concert today versus the 1970s, for example, are drastically different, so the money made on tour dwarfs the past. As does, perhaps, the number of people seeing a show.
Now, if a movie wins the weekend, it is a champion, no matter what. One cannot go back and then calculate what the number would have been if it was released in 1939 or 1980. If the year ends with more revenue than the previous year or years, that is a record. For the record, 2014 saw the average ticket price so far tumble to $7.84 from $8.05.
The weekly box office champ could be two different films as well. One could be the worldwide champ and then the other could be domestic (North America), especially on a weekly basis. The all-time champs have the same issue. One could have the domestic crown, yet not be the worldwide champ or have the same corresponding number on each chart. Add in adjusted for inflation and it could be different as well.
So, let's do that, with the help of Box Office Mojo. Let's take the top five for the three lists and see where it leads.
Domestic
1. "Avatar" - $760,507,625 million
2. "Titanic" - $658,672,302 million
3. "Marvels The Avengers" - $623,357,910 million
4. "The Dark Knight" - $534,858,444 million
5. "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" - $474,544,677 million
Worldwide
1. "Avatar" - $2,78.2 billion
2. "Titanic" - $2,18.6 billion
3. "Marvels The Avengers" - 1,518.6 billion
4. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" -$1,341.5 billion
5. "Iron Man 3" - $1,215.4 billion
Adjusted for inflation
1. "Gone With the Wind" - $1,584.0 billion
2. "Star Wars" - $1,396.4 billion
3. "The Sound of Music" - $1,116.5 billion
4. "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" - $1,112.1 billion
5. "Titanic" - $1,062.1 billion
The all-time champs are the same for the top three on the domestic and worldwide list but after that it is all over the place. The domestic list has the "Star Wars" films up higher while the worldwide list shows more love for "Harry Potter" and even "The Pirates of the Caribbean" films, for example.
The all-time box office champ is "Gone With the Wind," hands down.
The top film-grosser, "Avatar," lands at No. 14 when adjusted for inflation. To get an idea of how that is done, simply head to Box Office Mojo, where they thrive on the subject. The adjusted list does not have any over $2 billion, while the worldwide does, in "Avatar" and "Titanic." A whopping 72.7 percent of "Avatar's" box office came from overseas.
Less people are watching movies today and that is noted in most box office wraps at the end of the year. That is something Hollywood will need to address. As for the movie that has been seen by more people than any other film, that, too, is considered to be "Gone With the Wind." But, considering that "Gone With the Wind" was released in 1939 and still makes money, one could argue that fact is unfair. How can one compare a movie that has just been released to one that took that many years to reach its total?
What if there is a different list, one where they take into consideration certain factors for each country when calculating inflation? There we have another mess. By the way, "Gone With the Wind" is only No. 142 on the domestic chart and No. 181 on the worldwide chart when inflation is not taken in.
* From Box Office Mojo: Their chart: "Adjusted" to the estimated 2014 average ticket price of $7.84. Inflation-adjustment is mostly done by multiplying estimated admissions by the latest average ticket price. Where admissions are unavailable, adjustment is based on the average ticket price for when each movie was released (taking in to account re-releases where applicable).
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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