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Jan 8, 2007

A rant in the key of E

Did you know that the list of top grossing movies at the box office looks like this?

1. Titanic $600.79 m
2. Star Wars $461.00 m
3. Shrek 2 $436.47 m
4. E.T. $434.97 m
5. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace $431.09 m
6. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest $419.65 m
7. Spider-Man $405.85 m
Box office figures thanks to www.boxofficereport.com

Wait a sec! That's right - this list means nothing at all! See, the lists of "Top Grossers" don't typically adjust for inflation. When adjusted for inflation, Gone With the Wind becomes the all-time champ (with $1112.2 m) - without doing so, GWTW comes it at 71st. 71st! What kind of a system is this?

I've long had a problem with the use of weekend (and total) box office sales (dollars) as a means of measuring success. Look at the other forms of mass entertainment media and their main statistical measuring sticks: in the music industry, volume is the KPI, with special designations at 500,000 and 1,000,000 units. Television uses Nielsen ratings, which, flawed as they may be, are still a measure of total viewers, not an arbitrary, inflation-prone stat such as advertising dollars. The publishing industry also uses total units, like the music industry.

So, the obvious question is: Why doesn't Hollywood use "number of tickets sold" as its measuring stick? The short answer is "I don't know." I can speculate a number of reasons, from the standard "that's the way it has always been done" (likely). Another possibility is that the general public responds more to "instant history" and is thus more readily influenced to see a film if it is amongst the "Top 10 of All-Time" as opposed to being "Number 212 All-Time in Tickets Sold!" (more interesting, but not as likely).

Whatever the reason, I have been and forever will be bothered by the current tracking system, and unfortunately, I don't know what can be done about it (if anything). I do have the tiniest bit of good news, though: this site lists all movies with number of tickets sold all time. The list looks very similar to the "Adjusted Box Office" list, as it should be. One can only hope that someone or some group of "them" uses some common sense and picks up on this method in the future.


1 people have chosen wisely: on "A rant in the key of E"

WampaOne said...

Great post Fleth.

The Fellowship of the rings is below the other two LOTR...I thought it would be the other way around. Also, ROTJ above ESB...some things I'll never understand. Nice to see ANH right on second though.

For some reason, I can comment at work. I try putting something down on your Little Children review and the dystopian wiki list (good stuff there too) but it never saved. Let's see if this one goes. May the Force be with You.