“You asked for something dramatically different. You got it.” — Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window
The movie theatre might be dying. The MegaPlex is to blame. A time is coming soon when people en masse realize that $25 for one person to go to the movies is more trouble than it’s worth. Although you wouldn’t know this from reading Entertainment Weekly, which tells you about how this decade has been filled with the “Biggest Movies of All Time,” “Biggest Opening Weekend of All Time,” etc.
Except, they aren’t. Movie tickets used to be a quarter, and now they’re sometimes literally 100 times that. When you account for that difference in money spent on a ticket, the “How Many Eyeballs are On This Thing?” factor starts to look different. In fact, long-held industry beliefs are blown to smithereens. Here’s some lessons I learned from the Economy-Inflation-Adjusted List:
*The true Top 10 is a haven of originality.
There are five sequels in the NON-inflated Top 10. The true Top 10 is as follows (I used United States only numbers):
10 ) Avatar – released 2009, made $760 million, now $790 million; Non-inflated ranking: #1
9 ) Doctor Zhivago – released 1965, made $111 million, now $796 million; Non-inflated ranking: #411
8 ) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – released 1937, made $184 million, now $930 million; Non-inflated ranking: #138
7 ) Jaws – released 1975, made $260 million, now $987 million; Non-inflated ranking: #59
6 ) The Ten Commandments – released 1956, made $85 million, now $1.02 billion; Non-inflated ranking: #617
5 ) Titanic - released 1997, made $658 million, now $1.08 billion; Non-inflated ranking: #2
4 ) E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial - released 1982, made $435 million, now $1.09 billion; Non-inflated ranking: #8
3 ) The Sound of Music - released 1965, made $163 million, now $1.21 billion; Non-inflated ranking: #195
2 ) Star Wars - released 1977, made $460 million, now $1.33 billion; Non-inflated ranking: #6
1 ) Gone With the Wind - released 1939, made $198 million, which would be $1.82 billion today; Non-inflated ranking: #121
*Speaking of Star Wars, it weakens every time it goes back to the well.
-A New Hope: $1.33 billion adjusted
-Empire Strikes Back: $760 million adj.
-Return of the Jedi: $730 million adj.
-Phantom Menace: $710 million adj.
-Attack of the Clones: $419 million adj.
-Revenge of the Sith: $464 million adj.
More people saw The Towering Inferno than Episode II.
*Who can stop The Avengers?
*Transformers can’t overcome other movies with mild racism.
-Transformers 1: $363 million vs. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: $364 million
-Transformers 2: $419 million vs. Blazing Saddles: $478 million
-Transformers 3: $347 million vs. Song of the South: $349 million
*Maybe we need to lighten up.
-The Dark Knight, unadjusted, rests in the Top 5 of All Time chart. Adjusted, Grease has it beat.
-Christopher Nolan’s other movies, Batman Begins and Inception, are smacked around by The Flintstones and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, respectively.
*Hitchcock beats young adult readers, and now I can sleep at night.
-Psycho drew more crowds than Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1
-Rear Window got asses in the seats better than all Twilight films, The Hunger Games and 7 of the 8 Harry Potter films.
*Nobody knows anything
-More people saw the 50’s Shaggy Dog than The Matrix.
-Look Who’s Talking got more eyeballs on it than the Star Trek reboot. Having said that, please no more Travolta/Kirstie sequels.
-Thunderball is by far the most successful James Bond movie.
-Three Streisand movies (Funny Girl, A Star is Born and What’s Up Doc?) made more money than The Hangover.
*Having said all that, we still spend more money on today’s movies than the movies make.
-Within the Top 30 most expensive movies ever made, even adjusted for inflation, only 4 of those movies were not made in the 21st century. And 3 of those 4 (Wild Wild West, Titanic and Waterworld) were in the late 90’s. The outlier, Cleopatra in 1964, cost $330 million (adjusted).
-Despite this, Cleopatra made $500 million, adjusted. So, it’s hardly John Carter (a loss of $200 million) or Battleship (a loss of $150 million).
The profit margin gap (money spent vs. money gained) is getting smaller and smaller. Why is this allowed to go on, you ask? Possibly a mixture of hubris, incompetence, sloppiness, a total lack of ingenuity, disagreements over where the industry is going, and ultimately, these dumb movies still make billions internationally.
To be fair, a lot of the older films benefitted from unstiff competition. However, I don’t look at today’s landscape of 1000-channel TVs and Internet-streaming devices as a competitive marketplace. I see it as an over-saturated marketplace that has chopped the “pie” into so many pieces it doesn’t look like a pie anymore. As a viewer, personally, this is far too many options. When I look at a menu of 1000 choices, I want to weep in the fetal position.
On the bright side, movies and shows have never been more easily accessed, nor have they been so tailor-made to smaller audiences than they are today. We have also never been as fat, narcissistic and unable to carry on an intelligent conversation as
I am we are today.
No movie released now will ever touch the true Top 3. Unless they start charging $50 for a ticket. I don’t think Entertainment Weekly realizes that cinema might not survive to see that day. Where will it all go from here?