AndyO Blog

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The highest-grossing movies (adjusted for inflation)

All this talk about Avatar racing toward Titanic's record as the highest-grossing movie of all time made me wonder: If these movies (and many others) were released the same year, which would really be the biggest money maker?

Well, the results are surprising. Thanks to Box Office Mojo, you can actually see how these movies stack up when you adjust them for inflation. For example, when I saw Star Wars back in 1977, the average price for a ticket was $2.23. Today, the average price is $7.35.

So, here's the list: (^ indicates multiple releases)

Rank Title (click to view) Adjusted Gross Unadjusted Gross Year^
1 Gone with the Wind $1,485,028,000 $198,676,459 1939^
2 Star Wars $1,309,179,000 $460,998,007 1977^
3 The Sound of Music $1,046,753,000 $158,671,368 1965
4 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial $1,042,629,400 $435,110,554 1982^
5 The Ten Commandments $962,850,000 $65,500,000 1956
6 Titanic $943,342,300 $600,788,188 1997
7 Jaws $941,379,300 $260,000,000 1975
8 Doctor Zhivago $912,395,600 $111,721,910 1965
9 The Exorcist $812,679,700 $232,671,011 1973^
10 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs $801,150,000 $184,925,486 1937^
11 101 Dalmatians $734,391,800 $144,880,014 1961^
12 The Empire Strikes Back $721,627,700 $290,475,067 1980^
13 Ben-Hur $720,300,000 $74,000,000 1959
14 Return of the Jedi $691,336,700 $309,306,177 1983^
15 The Sting $655,200,000 $156,000,000 1973
16 Raiders of the Lost Ark $647,842,600 $242,374,454 1981^
17 Jurassic Park $633,612,900 $357,067,947 1993
18 The Graduate $628,949,700 $104,901,839 1967^
19 Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace $623,469,700 $431,088,301 1999
20 Fantasia $610,369,600 $76,408,097 1941^

So, as you can see, Avatar is nowhere to be found, but Titanic is.

The way this is calculated is through estimated number of tickets sold. For Star Wars, the number of estimated tickets is 178,119,600.

Here are the estimated tickets sold for Titanic and Avatar:

Rank Title (click to view) Studio Est. Tickets Unadjusted Gross Year^
6 Titanic Par. 128,345,900 $600,788,188 1997
52 Avatar Fox 60,917,000 $441,024,441 2009

It makes you realize that while Titanic did indeed sell a lot of tickets, Avatar is making most of its money from higher ticket prices -- both from inflation and the higher cost of the IMAX and 3-D format.

If Avatar were released the same year as Star Wars, it would only have grossed $135,844,900 instead of $441,024,441. (As of 1/13/09.)

Either way, James Cameron and George Lucas are both very wealthy. And they both make pretty good movies.

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posted by AndyO @ 8:12 PM   1 comments links to this post