Saturday, January 2, 2010

Illusions of Success

Record breaking revenues and ticket sales have become the latest trend of theatrical releases. Each year blockbusters hit screens that seem to reach landmark box office figures crushing the movies of yesteryear with staggering amounts of revenue. But the reality is a far grimmer picture.

The truth that is hidden behind a bombardment of marketing is that actual attendance figures for theatres in the United States has been in decline for quite some time now with a dip having been reached somewhere in 2005. So if less people are actually attending movie screenings how come the revenue figures for such movies is enormous?

The answer is simple... inflation. The raw revenue figures that are provided are not adjusted for the inevitable devaluing of the US dollar that is constantly taking place. This means that the current list of the top grossing movies of all time is grossly skewered, looking something like this:

But the actual ranking when adjusting for inflation (with 2009 as the base year) appears as follows:

Taken from boxofficemojo

On the adjusted list last year's heavyweight, "The Dark Knight" comes in at No.27, Shrek 2 at No. 30, Spiderman at No.34, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest at 44 and so on.

Another factor that is left out is the simple fact that ticket prices have also been rising to offset the drop in attendance. This makes the best measure of the success of each film being the actual number of tickets sold which is the basis used to calculate the gross here.

Does this mean people simply gotten tired of watching? Hardly... the number of movies being released today is higher which segments the market making it hard for a movie to have true mass appeal. Other mediums such as cable, DVD and of course downloading have reduced the number of people willing to watch in cinemas. This has made box office figures drop with rises in new markets such as DVD's, rentals and cable viewing.

Naturally the folks at Hollywood are not likely to make these facts known. Propagating images of movies with blitzkrieg like ticket sales helps build hype and keep movie goers coming.


  1. Haha..dude this is amazing...for sometime i started to wonder how these films were making such staggering amounts of revenue and becoming box office hits...

    Good post!

  2. It will be great to watch Shrek, i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.