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'Avatar' Box Office vs. 'Titanic': Box Office (Adjusted) Comparison

Avatar James CameronAvatar hasn't been the top weekend grosser at the U.S. and Canada box office since late January. First, it was dethroned by the Channing Tatum-Amanda Seyfried tearjerker Dear John; then came Garry Marshall's Valentine's Day, Joe Johnston's The Wolfman, and Chris Columbus' Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. This past weekend, Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, took the top spot.

Even so, Avatar remains the top movie of 2010. After 69 days in release, James Cameron's ecologically conscious sci-fi adventure, which is up for nine Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, has grossed $691.7 million domestically (US/Canada) and $1.775 billion internationally for a total of $2.466 billion worldwide. Hefty figures, no matter how you look at them.

But as I've mentioned before, it's always good to remember that those are box-office figures — which usually keep going up and up thanks to higher admission prices — instead of a higher number of tickets sold. If inflation, 3D/IMAX premium surcharges, and dollar fluctuations (for the international box office tallies) are taken into account the overall picture changes rather dramatically.

Now, pirated downloads of Avatar, if they've had any impact at all on the film's box office take, that impact has been minuscule. Really, how many people do you know who are eager to watch a state-of-the-art 3D epic on a 2D computer screen – even if in High Definition, which isn't likely – when they can catch it in all its technological glory at 3D theaters?

Boxofficemojo.com estimates that Avatar is now #15 on the all-time domestic box office chart adjusted for inflation, which is supposed to more accurately reflect the number of tickets a film has sold. (For comparison's sake, Titanic is #6.) Yet, Avatar keeps forging ahead, even if with less steam than before; on weekdays, for instance, the film has been taking in about 55-60 percent of its daily grosses from two weeks ago. But although the Na'vi are getting a little tired, they're up five slots since our last report about two weeks ago, having passed Mike Nichols' The Graduate (1967), Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park (1993) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and George Roy Hill's Paul Newman-Robert Redford Oscar-winning caper The Sting (1973).

If things continue as they've been, Avatar will need about ten days to two weeks to reach the #14 slot, currently occupied by Richard Marquand's Return of the Jedi (1983) with $715.7 million.

Ben-Hur William Wyler

At #13, William Wyler's multiple Oscar-winning epic Ben-Hur, with Charlton Heston, is even further ahead, with $745.7 million, right behind Irvin Kershner's The Empire Strikes Back (1980) with $747.1 million. Avatar will need quite a bit of steam to pass those two within the next month or so. That's not impossible, but Avatar will find it increasingly difficult as it moves up the list, partly because the box office gap between films will get wider, and partly because, as mentioned above, the high-flying sci-fi epic is clearly showing signs of box office fatigue in the US.

Compounding matters, Tim Burton's 3D fantasy Alice in Wonderland opens in theaters on March 5. The Na'vi will then be mercilessly forced out of their sacred IMAX/3D theaters, where they've made about 80 percent of their domestic income according to The Hollywood Reporter. (Fox, however, is reportedly considering a year-end rerelease.)

Once again, bear in mind that the figures above are approximations based on “average” ticket prices provided by the National Association of Theater Owners. (Box Office Mojo has come up with its own estimated average — $7.61 — for 2010.) An accurate calculation of a film's popularity at the box office — as in, the number of tickets sold and its ratio to the population size at the time of the film's release — would be based on where a movie made most of its money, e.g., a top-dollar New York house, in thousands of cheap small-town theaters, at matinees for kiddies, or at 3D/IMAX theaters that charge a premium. (Avatar ticket prices range from $9 to $16.50 or whereabouts, or between 28.5 percent and 40 percent more than ticket prices for 2D movies.)

It's also worth remembering that population increases, changes in movie-going demographics, and the growth of entertainment alternatives (home video, cable television, pay-per-view options) should all be taken into consideration when comparing the box office success of movies from different eras. And that many of the movies found on Box Office Mojo's inflation-adjusted chart had one or more rereleases throughout the decades.

Avatar has just beaten Titanic's worldwide box office record in inflation-adjusted US-dollar terms. As per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics' inflation calculator, Titanic would have grossed $2.450 billion in 2010 US dollars, or about $16 million less than Avatar, a blockbuster that continues to break box office records overseas on its 10th week.

Now, even if we choose to ignore the fact that the playing field isn't the same – when Titanic came out, neither China nor Russia, two of Avatar's biggest boosters, were the huge Hollywood markets they've become since; back in 1998, movies didn't come out on DVD three or four months following their initial release – there's also the issue of 3D/IMAX surcharges, which can add about about 28.5%-40 percent to a movie's admission costs.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, approximately 80 percent of Avatar's revenues in North America and two-thirds of its international receipts came from 3D/IMAX screenings. Subtract one-third – or even one-quarter or one-fifth – of Avatar's worldwide box office take to date, and you'll find that it still trails Titanic – in terms of number of tickets sold – by a wide margin.

Just as important is the fact that back in 1998 the US dollar was very strong, whereas in 2010 it's quite weak. In other words, most top foreign currencies, when converted, could buy way fewer dollars in 1998 than today; e.g., 1,000 Japanese Yen bought $US7.5 in Jan. 1998, but US$10.7 in Jan. 2010; 1,000 Chinese Yuan bought US$120 in Jan. 1998, but US$146 in Jan. 2010; 1 euro bought US$1.09 in Jan. 1998, but US$1.43 in Jan. 2010. (Note: in 1998, EU countries still had their own currencies, but the euro reflected their monetary value.)

So, if 1 million tickets at 1,000 Yen each were sold for Titanic in Japan in 1998 and the same amount was sold for Avatar for the same price in 2010 (we're ignoring inflation and 3D/IMAX surcharges here), when converted to US dollars, box office figures would read approximately $7.5 million for Titanic and $10.7 million for Avatar. That's quite a discrepancy when we're discussing nine-figure amounts: Titanic grossed $201 million in Japan in 1998; in 2010 US dollars, that would represent a staggering $286 million. Avatar, with higher ticket prices and 3D/IMAX surcharges, has grossed $131 million at the Japanese box office as of Feb. 21.

Even the domestic box office – which includes both the US and Canada – has been (paradoxically) strengthened by the weak US dollar: The Canadian dollar was worth 70 cents in Jan. 1998; in Jan. 2010, it was worth 96 cents, a valuation of about 35 percent. That means adding approximately US$3.5 million to every $10 million Canadian dollars earned by Avatar at the domestic box office when compared to the same amount (in Canadian dollars) earned when Titanic was the James Cameron blockbuster breaking global box office records as moviegoers the world over wanted to see Leonardo DiCaprio sink and Kate Winslet swim.

Now, don't get me wrong. Avatar is still playing around the world and it's still doing incredibly well in numerous countries. Although to date Avatar has sold fewer tickets than Titanic and a number of other movies, it's undeniably a gigantic success. Much like Titanic was a gigantic success, along with Star Wars and Jaws and E.T. and The Ten Commandments and Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Sound of Music and Doctor Zhivago and Mary Poppins and Ben-Hur (1959) and Samson and Delilah and Duel in the Sun and The Bells of St. Mary's and Gone with the Wind and King Kong and Ben-Hur (1925) and The Birth of a Nation and other movies released before and after.

Just remember to always take claims such as Biggest Box-Office Hit Ever! Record-Breaking Box-Office Revenues! – no matter how old or how new the movie in question – with a boulder-sized grain of salt.

Currency exchange source: x-rates.com. According to the website, most of their pre-2009 exchange rates were culled from Federal Reserve Bank and International Monetary Fund data.

Avatar features Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver.

Sam Worthington, Joel David Moore, Dileep Rao in James Cameron's Avatar
The Towering Inferno
Sam Worthington, Joel David Moore, Dileep Rao in James Cameron's Avatar (top); John Guillermin's The Towering Inferno starred Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Susan Blakely, Richard Chamberlain, Jennifer Jones, O.J. Simpson, Robert Vaughn, and Robert Wagner (bottom)

If 3D/IMAX surcharges are factored in, Avatar would fall behind many more movies on Box Office Mojo's inflation-adjusted chart, which is supposed to better reflect the number of tickets a movie has sold. As I've explained in the comments section of a previous Avatar post, the 3D/IMAX premiums can add somewhere between 25-30 and 40 percent to Avatar's grosses. The vast majority of movies, including most recent releases, don't have that sort of advantage — certainly not to Avatar's extent, as 80 percent of its domestic gross and about two-thirds of its international gross have come from 3D and 3D/IMAX screenings. [Please see a personal addendum below.]

Even if you opt for the lower end of the scale and subtract only 25 percent from Avatar's domestic earnings (a worldwide inflation-adjusted chart is unavailable) — in order to better estimate where James Cameron's sci-fi adventure would rank in number of tickets sold — the film would have earned to date (Feb. 25) $518.7 million, placing it at #37, slightly ahead of Macaulay Culkin's 1991 comedy Home Alone ($515.4m) and several million behind Roland Emmerich's 1996 cartoonish sci-fier Independence Day ($527.1m).

If you opt for a mid-level percentage, or about 33 percent, Avatar's “2D-equivalent box office take” would be $461.1 million, which would place it at #53 in number of tickets sold, slightly ahead of Sam Raimi's 2004 superhero flick Spider-Man 2 ($457.8m) and several million behind John Guillermin's 1974 all-star disaster melodrama The Towering Inferno ($467m).

Once again, bear in mind that those are approximations based on “average” ticket prices provided by the National Association of Theater Owners. (Box Office Mojo has come up with its own estimated average — $7.61 — for 2010.) An accurate calculation of a film's popularity at the box office — as in, the number of tickets sold and its ratio to the population size at the time of the movie's release — would be based on where the movie made most of its money, e.g., a top-dollar New York house, thousands of cheaper small-town theaters, 3D/IMAX screenings, or kiddie matinees.

Avatar's ticket prices, for instance, cost much more than the purported $7.61 “average” for 2010. In fact, most releases — whether new or old — that earn(ed) most of their revenues in major urban centers are at an advantage on those charts, whereas movies that did well in smaller towns or those made for children (lower prices for kids, matinees) are at a disadvantage.

It's also worth remembering that population increases, changes in movie-going demographics, changes in movie distribution (movies didn't open at 3,000 – – or even 300 – screens until the mid-70s), and the growth of entertainment alternatives (home video, cable television, pay-per-view options) should all be taken into consideration when comparing the box office success of movies from different eras. And that many of the movies found on Box Office Mojo's inflation-adjusted chart had one or more rereleases throughout the years.

The effect of piracy on a movie's box office performance remains highly debatable. It all depends on the type of movie (would you rather watch Avatar on your computer screen or at a 3D movie house?), the quality of the pirated material (high-def. copies vs. crummy reproductions), and where the copying is taking place (Beverly Hills or Lagos or Kinshasa, where most people who'd buy 50-cent copies of Hollywood flicks wouldn't be able to afford going to the movies, anyhow).

And finally, Avatar is generating quite a bit of money and will probably keep doing so in the next few weeks. More “inflation-adjusted” updates will be posted in the near future.

Addendum: I've been accused of coming up with those figures because I'm somehow anti-Avatar. I'm not. Avatar isn't my favorite movie of the year and I wouldn't call it a great film, but I found it a memorable experience nevertheless. I am anti-bullshit, however. And I like to keep things in perspective as much as possible, even considering all the variables involved when comparing something as ephemeral as a movie's “popularity.” That's the only reason I've been posting those “inflation-adjusted” articles about Avatar. It could've been any other movie that studio flacks – and journalists who should know better – claim is the Biggest Box-Office Hit Ever.

As an aside, I may be checking out Avatar a second time before it disappears from 3D houses. In fact, I want to catch it at an IMAX screening.

Photo: Avatar (WETA / 20th Century Fox); Titanic (20th Century Fox); Ben-Hur (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

Feb. 3

On Tuesday, Feb. 2, '10, James Cameron's Avatar flew past Cameron's own Titanic to become the #1 blockbuster ever at the domestic box office – as long as you choose to ignore both inflation and 3D/IMAX surcharges – with $601.6 million as per Boxofficemojo.com. Avatar had already overtaken Titanic at the worldwide (including North America) box office about a week ago. To date, Avatar has grossed $1.446 billion overseas; the low value of the US dollar and the relatively recent opening up of huge movie markets Russia and China have helped out Cameron's latest hit.

Titanic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet (and featuring veteran Gloria Stuart), grossed $1.242 billion overseas and $600.8 million domestically. Avatar's worldwide total currently stands at $2.048 billion. Adjusted for inflation (even without considering 3D/IMAX higher ticket prices), Gone with the Wind remains the top blockbuster ever domestically, and possibly overseas as well (even remotely reliable figures are unavailable).

Avatar has been out for only a little over seven weeks and it still has a lot of steam left – though probably not as much as Titanic twelve years ago. It's doubtful that Avatar will remain at the top position for another eight weeks (Titanic remained #1 for 15 weekends), or that it'll have an increase in ticket sales of the kind experienced by Titanic. Avatar's figures have been dropping steadily, even if at a relatively slow pace (10 to 20 percent on a day-to-day or weekend-to-weekend basis).

When it comes to the actual number of tickets sold, Avatar still lags behind not only Titanic, but also a whole array of movies of various decades due to inflation and 3D surcharges that can add anywhere between 25 to 40 percent to the cost of a regular ticket.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, at least 65 percent of Avatar's overseas box office and almost 80 percent of its domestic revenues have come from 3D sites. As previously reported, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight earned only 6.5 percent of its worldwide revenues from higher-priced IMAX screenings.

Avatar has received nine Academy Award nominations, including best picture and best director (but not best screenplay). Additionally, it won 2010 Golden Globes for best picture (drama) and best director. Last week, it lost the 2010 Producers Guild Award to Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker, while on Sunday James Cameron lost the 2010 Directors Guild Award to his former wife Bigelow, the first woman to ever win the DGA prize for a narrative feature.

Written and directed by Cameron, Avatar stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver, Laz Alonso, Giovanni Ribisi, CCH Pounder, and West Studi.

Photo: Avatar (WETA / 20th Century Fox)

'Avatar' Boosts News Corp.

Thanks to James Cameron's Avatar, officially the #1 all-time box-office champ both domestically and internationally, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which owns 20th Century Fox, reported higher quarterly profits than Wall Street forecasters had predicted, the New York Times has reported. News Corp. announced earnings of $8.68 billion in its fiscal second quarter, which ended Dec. 31; that's up 10 percent from the year before.

News Corp.'s film revenues grew from $112 million to $324 million. After passing Cameron's own Titanic on Tuesday, Avatar topped the all-time domestic box office chart (not accounting for inflation and 3D/IMAX surcharges) with earnings of $601.6 million as per Box Office Mojo. To date, Avatar has grossed $1.446 billion overseas.

Avatar's influence will be felt even more strongly once this quarter's figures are tallied. During the previous quarter, Avatar had been out for only 13 days.

As per the Times report, News Corp. claimed its profit gain was a result of “increased advertising revenues at The Wall Street Journal and lower operating expenses throughout the newspaper businesses from prior year restructuring efforts,” though the company's cable network division led by Fox News was the most successful, with operating income growing from $448 million to $604 million.

The Times adds that the Avatar effect was reduced by “a recent $500 million payment to settle three lawsuits against one of its lesser-known units, News America Marketing, which sells in-store advertising in supermarkets and publishes coupon inserts.”

Photo: Avatar (WETA / 20th Century Fox)

Dec. 19

Avatar MovieAvatar movie ahead of Titanic on opening day in North America?

James Cameron's Avatar movie made $27 million at the domestic box office on Friday, according to various online sources. That figure includes $3.5 million the 3D futuristic action-adventure epic earned at Thursday midnight screenings. (Image: Avatar movie.)

Sounds impressive? Well, it is. Cameron's prior blockeviscerating epic, Titanic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet back in late 1997, made a mere $28.6 million on its opening weekend.

Sounds unimpressive for little Titanic? Well, think again. Ticket prices are now considerably higher than they were 12 years ago – $4.59 vs. $7.18 last year as per the National Association of Theater Owners. In other words, had DiCaprio and Winslet gone down with the ship (well, one of them did) late last year, Titanic's first-weekend gross would have been close to $45 million. Also, it's worth noting that Avatar movie tickets are even costlier – up to 40 percent – for IMAX and 3D screenings, where most of its box office take has been generated.

Avatar movie vs. New Moon, Revenge of the Fallen

Putting things into perspective: Cameron's Avatar movie's $27 million is nothing to be sniffed at, but thanks to Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner's on-screen chemistry, Chris Weitz's The Twilight Saga: New Moon grossed $72 million on its first Friday out a few weeks ago. Not far behind, Michael Bay's special-effects-laden Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen scored $62 million on its Wednesday debut. Though both were sequels, always a plus when it comes to opening-weekend grosses, neither one was in 3D.

Even if you factor in that both New Moon and Revenge of the Fallen may have opened in more theaters and had shorter running times than Cameron's Avatar movie, that's still quite a gap.

Avatar movie: Major box office gap this weekend

Another major gap is the one between Avatar and its current competition. According to early estimates, no other movie made more than $3.4 million in North America on Friday, which is what Disney's The Princess and the Frog earned at the number two spot. Sandra Bullock's The Blind Side took in $3.1 million, the much-panned Hugh Grant / Sarah Jessica Parker comedy Did You Hear About the Morgans? debuted in fourth place with a dismal $2.4 million, while Pattinson and Stewart and Lautner are still hanging in there, with New Moon in fifth with $1.4 million.

Avatar movie picture: 20th Century Fox


         
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67 Comments to 'Avatar' Box Office vs. 'Titanic': Box Office (Adjusted) Comparison

  1. Durgesh

    I LOVE TITANIC MOVIE

  2. avatar is ever blue. ;-)

  3. faraz

    Titanic is ever green movie.

  4. meynard delosreyes

    Avatar is not that good compare to Titanic…
    Avatar can be compared to Armageddon, Star Wars, or any other fictional films… My God, you Titanic haters must be lunatics…I've watched Avatar but I don't find any special about it.. I am a movie critic, and I know how to judge a film…Titanic is one of the best films ever made…Avatar just have a high gross because of the director..James Cameron films is a crowd drawer…
    Best Films Ever Made:
    1. Bridge Over the River Kwai
    2. Titanic
    3. Lawrence of Arabia

    That's it…. I'm a 24 year old movie addict… I bet I've seen more movies than those who review movies..haha

  5. allex

    yes , but delgo was made in 2008 and avatar start filming in 2005 so ….

  6. Dana

    Titanic was more of a classic than Avatar. I think 100 years later, Titanic will still be remembered as one of the very best, there's something everlasting about tragic romances.

  7. Kyle

    Avatar is way better then Titanic no questions asked. Avatar had a much better storyline and a good ending aswell. Titanic everyone dies pretty much, AVatar lots people die aswell but less then titanic and their was more depth put into the ending

  8. mh

    DG,

    As explained in those series of articles, the figures are all box-office-related. (Source: Box Office Mojo)

    And yes, it's true, DVD and other ancillary revenues would be extremely difficult to include, especially when using inflation-adjusted numbers.

  9. DG

    Interesting article. I wonder if your numbers for past movies are strictly box-office numbers or if they include VHS/DVD/Bluray revenue from those movies as well. If they do include this revenue, it becomes incredibly difficult because this revenue stream comes in more recently than the movie was out. Compensating DVD revenue by inflation requires you to know when the DVD was released to know what price to compensate it for.

    For instance Titanic sold a ton of DVDs at pricing from 10+ yrs ago and now is re-released on Bluray and sold a ton more at today's pricing. This steady income stream skews your numbers. Not to mention if any network picked up these old movies for release on TV and paid for them. That gets added to the revenue of a movie.

    I guess it depends where you get your revenue numbers from (strictly box office or for the movie in general).

  10. mh

    >>>>>>>I'm guessing movies played a lot longer precisely because there weren't as many options.

    That isn't necessarily true. In small towns with fewer theaters, there was a new movie *a day* or every other day — since studios produced and released so many movies in decades past.

    In major cities they played for a long time in large part because movies didn't open in 3,000 screens around the country. They were lucky if they opened in 30 — or even 13.

    Often, big movies opened at one or two theaters. And played at those two for months at top prices.

    >>>>>>>>If you're just interested in how many people attend, that's fine, but there are so many issues that skew things one way or the other…..re-release is another issue which is commonly brought into this argument.

    I couldn't agree with you more. All of that must be taken into consideration.

    >>>>>>>>>When I look at the list of adjusted for inflation, it doesn't make sense to me that virtually all of them are older pictures.

    But since people used to go to the movies much more often, that should make sense, no? Many more tickets were sold.

    Even so, at least partly because of population increases, there are lots and lots of movies made in the last 10 or 20 years that are among the top 100 movies on Box Office Mojo's inflation-adjusted chart:

    18 movies made after 2000; 16 between 1990 and 1999.

    That's 34 movies out of 100, or more than 1/3 in only two decades — when blockbusters have been around since at least “The Birth of a Nation” in the early 1910s.

    The 1940s, Hollywood's most successful decade at the box office — in terms of tickets sold — have only 7 movies on the chart, most of which are Disney features that had multiple rereleases.

    The 1950s have 10 movies, including a couple of Disney cartoons with multiple rereleases. The 1930s have only 2, both — GWTW and “Snow White” — with multiple rereleases.

    So, no, the inflation-adjusted box-office chart isn't at all “skewed” toward older movies. Though movies that have had multiple rereleases are at an advantage.

    (This whole thing is an interesting idea for a post!)

    >>>>>>After all of this, they still look like apples and oranges to me.

    I see what you mean, but I don't quite agree. Could we be comparing apples and apples or oranges and oranges — but in different climates and terrains??

    Thanks for taking the time to express your thoughts.

  11. InCA

    mh on March 1st, 2010

    I'm guessing movies played a lot longer precisely because there weren't as many options. According to my mother EVERYBODY went to the movies in her day because that was the thing to do. I still don't think it's that way so much anymore. In any case, inflation doesn't really work. I wonder how percentage of disposable income has changed. The effect of access to credit cards, internet booking, etc. Some help put people in seats now and some don't. If you're just interested in how many people attend, that's fine, but there are so many issues that skew things one way or the other…..re-release is another issue which is commonly brought into this argument.

    When I look at the list of adjusted for inflation, it doesn't make sense to me that virtually all of them are older pictures. It tells me something is amiss. I probably look at those numbers skeptically because of my background in statistical analysis (I used to teach it at the University of California) and the list looks skewed. If adjusted for inflation was a good indice, there would be more balance to it, but that's coming at things from an entirely different perspective. After all of this, they still look like apples and oranges to me.

  12. mh

    >>>>>>I think there are dozens of reasons people used to go to the movies more. It was pretty much the only pony in town compared to now.

    I see your point, and I've read this a # of times before. I'm not sure that is correct, though. The culture *has* changed, that's a given. But people had a number of options in the past as well.

    In fact, movies had LOTS of competition from one another. Hollywood studios released major productions much more often than they do now. Just about every week there were not one or two, but four or five or six A-grade movies coming out. Major stars often appeared in three, four, five movies per year.

    So, even though there was no TV until the late 40s and no Internet or DVDs until the mid 90s, there was lots of competition *at the movies*.

  13. InCA

    mh on March 1st, 2010

    It's a harmless enough exercise you're going through and it's clear the PR is a bunch of $#!^, but # of people is no more interesting than total dollars. I think there are dozens of reasons people used to go to the movies more. It was pretty much the only pony in town compared to now. We have a home theater system with a 10 foot screen, surround sound, 1080p, etc. and can purchase just about anything we want. My son has an X Box, a big screen TV in his bedroom and well as a 23″ Mac. There's more movies coming out on a weekly basis and so on. People may still go to the movies, but it ain't the same. At least you realize the per person attendance for a movie like Avatar gets driven down by “premium” prices.

  14. mh

    >>>>>>>>>>>>Also, why aren't we comparing “GWTW” and “Avatar” global revenues? Because it's dumb…..too much change for any comparison to make sense.

    Not dumb at all. Actually, that would be very interesting. The problem is that that sort of data is mostly unavailable or very hard to find.

  15. mh

    >>>>>>>>>>>It sure doesn't look that way to me. I keep reading about “adjusted for inflation” this movie made more money that that one…etc.

    That's what “inflation-adjusted” charts do. They show you figures adjusted for inflation so you can have a better idea of the actual ranking of a film in terms of tickets sold. Since we don't have the actual numbers, the inflation-adjusted chart is the best way to put a film's box-office success in that sort of perspective.

    >>>>>>>>If you want to try and estmate # of peole who have seen a movie, that's fine, but it's a very, very limited perspective.

    I disagree with you there. If that's the case, then box-office charts shouldn't exist, because *they* also present a very limited perspective.

    >>>>>>The whole point is that EVERYTHING is so much different today than it was 10, 20. etc. years ago. This is why I don't believe comparisons are valuable. The times they are a changin.

    True, but some things remain the same. People still go to the movies.

    All we're doing is attempting to dig beneath the “all-time box-office champ” p.r. blitz by presenting a different — though certainly not the *only* — way of looking at a film's box-office take.

    In our view, “inflation-adjusted” box-office charts or charts that present the # of tickets a movie has sold are much more reliable than those that only present inflated box-office figures.

    And remember: In “Avatar's” case it's not just the 3D effect. It's also the fact that due to inflation *everything* (including movie tickets) costs (or seems to cost) more than before. (Just like people may think they're making more money — though since their money has been devalued that may not necessarily be the case.)

  16. InCA

    To mh on March 1st, 2010

    Also, why aren't we comparing “GWTW” and “Avatar” global revenues? Because it's dumb…..too much change for any comparison to make sense.

  17. InCA

    To mh on March 1st, 2010

    > What we've tried to do here is estimate “Avatar's” position on the all-time box-office ranking based on the # of tickets sold. That's it.

    It sure doesn't look that way to me. I keep reading about “adjusted for inflation” this movie made more money that that one…etc.

    If you want to try and estmate # of peole who have seen a movie, that's fine, but it's a very, very limited perspective. As I said, higher IMX/3D prices DISCOURAGES people from seeing Avatar (not that a lot haven't seen it over and over) so it's not really a fair comparison. The whole point is that EVERYTHING is so much different today than it was 10, 20. etc. years ago. This is why I don't believe comparisons are valuable. The times they are a changin.

  18. mh

    >>>>>>This is such a silly discussion and I don't know why people continue to insist on comparing apples to oranges. You can't do it.

    Yes, you can. In many countries they use # of tickets sold to calculate a movie's popularity or success. In Hollywood, they use inflatable box-office figures. What we've tried to do here is estimate “Avatar's” position on the all-time box-office ranking based on the # of tickets sold. That's it.

    >>>>>>>>For example, I could say that the additional surcharge for 3D has hurt Avatar's box office both in terms of number of people (as it surely has) AND the overall revenue because IF YOU CHARGE LESS FOR A SEAT, MORE PEOPLE WILL ATTEND. Can anyone say for sure that the more expensive 3D/IMAX tickets maximizes the overall income?

    Yes. That's logic. If 100 people pay $10 to see a movie and 51 people pay $20 to see another, the one that costs $20 will show a higher income even though way fewer people saw it.

    >>>>>>>>>People should stop these silly discussions. Movies are going to continue to be made in different economic/social/technical eras and you can't bring them into line with each other. Why the obsession with #1?

    I don't think they're silly. I think it's good to attempt to put things in perspective. The obsession with #1 comes from the studios and the news sources that publish their tales without attempting to see them within context, whether historical or financial.

  19. InCA

    This is such a silly discussion and I don't know why people continue to insist on comparing apples to oranges. You can't do it. You can try to make all the assumptions you want, but there are always different ways of looking at different times. For example, I could say that the additional surcharge for 3D has hurt Avatar's box office both in terms of number of people (as it surely has) AND the overall revenue because IF YOU CHARGE LESS FOR A SEAT, MORE PEOPLE WILL ATTEND. Can anyone say for sure that the more expensive 3D/IMAX tickets maximizes the overall income? If seat prices really add more to the overall revenue stream, why not just charge $100 per seat??? Then you'd REALLY make a lot of money (Folks, that's sarcasm…..).

    People should stop these silly discussions. Movies are going to continue to be made in different economic/social/technical eras and you can't bring them into line with each other. Why the obsession with #1?

  20. mh

    hmm,

    >>>>>>>>It's not about popularity – It's about how much money the movie makes!

    Well, it's more about how many tickets a movie sells. So, popularity can be “estimated” that way. How many tickets sold, the population at the time. That sort of thing.

    >>>>>Gone with the wind was the only option for years/decades with multiple rereleases…

    No, that isn't right. GWTW wasn' the Kim Jong Il of Hollywood. There was PLENTY of competition. Studios made dozens of movies each year, and some pretty big ones that were big box office hits and/or that had big rereleases. BEN-HUR, DUEL IN THE SUN, THE WIZARD OF OZ, KING KONG, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES are a few that come to mind.

    GWTW made more $$$$ because it was more popular -in a way that people today have trouble imagining.

  21. hmm

    It's not about popularity - It's about how much money the movie makes! There is no way compare “popularity” of a movies from different eras. Is Kim Jong Il of North Korea more “popular” there than say Barak Obama in US just because he's the only option in his country? Gone with the wind was the only option for years/decades with multiple rereleases… And when you make your research and look at the numbers that GWTW made in international scene and when it did them you see that numbers must be pretty close already when you are talking Ticket Price inflation adjusted box office

  22. mh

    >>>>>>>>>>>>I don't see how putting really old movies at the top of lists is going to accomplish anything. How will that change things really.

    It just gives you a better idea of how many tickets a movie sold, which is the *true* measure of a film's success. That's what it accomplishes.

    (And yes, of course, newer movies haven't had the rereleases enjoyed by many older movies. That should also be taken into account. Just like the country's population at the time a movie was released should be taken into account as well. Unfortunately, the Box Office Mojo chart doesn't provide that sort of detailed breakdown.)

    That's not living in the past. That's simply attempting to put things in perspective, based on that data we have at our fingertips. Else, what do you suggest? Doing away with every history book out there? Who cares about the past, right? No lessons to be learned there.

    Also, “Metropolis” was not a major box-office hit. A good reason why silent films aren't on the Box Office Mojo inflation-adjusted chart is that none grossed more than $4 million or so at the US box office.

    “The Big Parade” was the highest-grossing silent movie in the US, followed by “Ben-Hur.” (“Ben-Hur” did much better overseas and was the highest-grossing movie worldwide until “Gone with the Wind.” This blog's administrator has done extensive research on that movie.)

    Even if you estimate that “average” ticket prices were 18 cents in 1925 — or half of what they were in 1948 as per the National Association of Theater Owners — those two movies would have earned about $170-180 million in 2010 dollars. (“Average” of $7.61 as estimated by Box Office Mojo.)

    The Box Office Mojo inflation-adjusted chart ends at #100 — “Top Gun” - $362 million.

    Considering that the US population in 1925, when “The Big Parade” and “Ben-Hur” came out, was 115 million or about one-third of what it is today, those are mindblowing figures. (Though, of course, the 18-cent average isn't the best way to estimate their earnings as those two films were stellar attractions that could cost up to $1 for a ticket. Much like the much too low $7.61 “average” isn't the best way to estimate 2010 ticket prices.)

  23. Tony Robertson

    I don't see how putting really old movies at the top of lists is going to accomplish anything. How will that change things really. The thing of it is, there are two lists out there. One for how movies are doing in today's prices, and one for all movies adjusted for inflation. Most have just chosen to go with the former list. Really the adjusted list it is not an accurate list because what about movies from the silent era. They are not on there. You have Metropolis and other famous films from then. Maybe it should be at the top. In pop music they do the same. When doing the biggest hits on vh1 they use the 1950's as the cut off decade, no swing tunes on that list.

    The reason is people are interested in today, not 70 years ago. That is just the reality of it, if some people don't realize it then life will be very frustrating for those who hang onto the past.

  24. Stephane Palomba

    Hi Rich,

    I completely agree with what you said.
    People are willing to pay more despite economical crisis and availability of 2D screens, so this should indeed be seen as impressive and not factored negatively.
    Besides, part of the budget of that movie was actually dedicated to 3D.
    At the time of Titanic movie, I would like to remind everyone that 3D was already existing. I remember myself when i was kid watching Captain Eo in Disneyland in 3D and it was in 1989 !
    So yes, today there are more theaters, technology is available but 4 to 6 months after release, DVD releases are out. And this has a big impact in movie theater life cycles.

  25. Rich

    But it should tell the whole story. I also agree with the idea of days a movie was in theaters being factored in. As long as it's calculated without decreasing a movies position with it staying in theaters it could make a cool all time chart.

  26. Rich

    Personally inflation charts should be for the changing dollar, not the ticket cost. If some movie comes out within the near future in a special format costing $50 per ticket, it should be viewed as more impressive. If people are willing to pay that much because they believe it's worth the extra cost, why when making an all time chart should it be factored out? Yes this is pushing it to the extreames but atleast in my opinion all time charts can only be 3 ways; exact earnings, calculated for inflation(dollar or ticket), and evyrthing calculated in. The problem I see with what you are doing is only Avatar is affected. If you calculated everything in including 3d and rereleases for all movies in an all time chart that put Avatar at the bottom I'd be fine with it, but your methods just make you seem like an Avatar haiter BECAUSE it is the only movie affected by your calculations.

  27. mh

    >>>>>>>I'm looking forward to that article! I think it can really be accurate.

    Well, not THAT accurate, I must grudgingly admit. I'll have to do “possibilities” in terms of average tickets costs for 3D as those vary depending on where you watch “Avatar” — a major city or a small town or far-flung suburb.

    It'll be probably have to be lower end (28.5%), mid-range (about 33-34%) and higher end (40%) “possibilities.”

  28. sammie

    “…You're right. And my next piece on AVATAR will consider the 20% 2D revenues separately.”

    I'm looking forward to that article! I think it can really be accurate. the-numbers.com has specified the total Imax gross (dom and ww and to date 120mil dom) although without a date for the last updated figures. I'm not from the US, nor am I living in the US so I'm sure you will do a much better job calculating what the average cost of the 3D tickets (excluding Imax) are than me.

  29. mh

    >>>>>>>>>I get your points but disagree. You can't just change what people paid for their tickets. If you didn't want to pay extra to see Avatar you wouldn't. Plus even when accounted for inflation, wolrd wide Avatar is ahead of Titanic.

    Rich,

    I'm “changing” what people paid for their tickets in order to get a better idea of how many tickets were sold for “Avatar.” That *needs* to be done.

    And no, “Avatar” has not passed “Titanic” in terms of ticket sales worldwide.

    See: http://www.altfg.com/blog/box-office/avatar-titanic-worldwide-revenues-87129/

  30. mh

    >>>>>>>>I really enjoy your articles about this subject, but your mathed is slightly flawed. Avatars actual gross is to date 691m and if 80 % of that is with the extra 3D charge, 20 % is not. That would mean that 138,2 mil of the gross is non 3D ergo, not a subject to your calculations.

    Sammie,

    You are absolutely right. I was going to do it the way you have it, but as I tried to simplify the math (so readers wouldn't get bored) I did away with the 80%-20% issue and opted to subtract 25% and 33% from “Avatar's” revenues — those are lower-end, and mid-to-lower-end percentages — so as to offset the fact that I hadn't considered the 20% revenues in 2D. (I hope I'm not making *this* too complicated.)

    The point is: You're right. And my next piece on AVATAR will consider the 20% 2D revenues separately.

  31. mh

    >>>>>but what you, and many other do not take into account is the fact that movies nowadays do not enjoy a year long box-office run as they used to do in the times to tinanic and before … number of movies releasing, other recreation activities have taken their hit on repeated viewings

    True. However, what people today should take into account is that movies didn't open at 300,000 screens in the past. As late as the mid-70s, movies opened in a few hundred — if that many — theaters.

    Up to the late '60s, special releases often opened in a few houses — sometimes only *one* — and stayed there for months. Then it'd slowly open elsewhere, little by little. They'd never reach 3,000 screens and the like at once. (Though admittedly, some of those movie palaces were huge.)

    Now, something else: In the past, movies didn't face competition from DVDs and the like, but they had a lot of competition from ONE ANOTHER.

    Many more movies were released by the Hollywood studios during the studio era than nowadays. Many, many, MANY more. There was a lot of competition for entertainment, even without the Internet or home video.

  32. Rich

    I get your points but disagree. You can't just change what people paid for their tickets. If you didn't want to pay extra to see Avatar you wouldn't. Plus even when accounted for inflation, wolrd wide Avatar is ahead of Titanic. You could manipulate the data for anymovie to change its rank. If you remove GWTWs rereleases it's not even close to the top of inflation adjusted charts.
    Just my rant,

  33. JR

    Avatar may trail serveral movies in admissions in the US, but it trails only Titanic internationally. It completely destroys Star Wars, E.T, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, Independence Day etc etc in international admissions.

  34. sammie

    I really enjoy your articles about this subject, but your mathed is slightly flawed. Avatars actual gross is to date 691m and if 80 % of that is with the extra 3D charge, 20 % is not. That would mean that 138,2 mil of the gross is non 3D ergo, not a subject to your calculations. 552,8 mil is though. If you count these 552,8 with 40 %, which is your extreme, the sum would be 331,7 mil + the 138,2 = 469,9. This calculation would place Avatar on #51 right behind The Bells of St. Mary's. If we were to remove only 25 % of the 3D inflated gross, the total would be 414,6 + 138,2 = 552,8. This would place Avatar on #31 right behind Sleeping Beauty.

  35. rachit

    Nice article which puts things in perspective as far as price and number of tickets is sold … sure avatar lags behind a lot many movies in terms of tickets sold … but what you, and many other do not take into account is the fact that movies nowadays do not enjoy a year long box-office run as they used to do in the times to tinanic and before … number of movies releasing, other recreation activities have taken their hit on repeated viewings … i mean definitely avatar would have raked in much more than 15mn this weekend had shutter island not released, but sadly that calculation is not feasible … The inflation adjusted figures for gone with the wind stand at a staggering 1.5 bn usd … no one in the right state of mind would predict such a run for a movie now … so while your argument holds true, i would still put avatar at the top of the tree ….

  36. mh

    Hello, Stephane,

    I believe I get your point.

    It's true that lots of people are paying more to watch “Avatar” because of the 3D allure and that some have stayed away because they find it too expensive.

    So, in a sense, the 3D is both an advantage and a disadvantage. But trust me (and the box-office figures): the 3D technology has always been “Avatar's” chief selling point. It's been much, much more of a plus than a minus.

    After all, people have the option to watch “Avatar” in 2D for lower prices — but 80% in the US and about 66% overseas prefer the more expensive 3D screenings.

    The sole point of this article was to attempt to put in perspective “Avatar's” place on the all-time box-office chart in terms of tickets sold. That's it. When I talk about the 3D “advantage” I'm referring to inflated box-office figures — i.e., higher revenues despite (relatively speaking) fewer tickets sold. I'm not saying that's good or bad. It's just a fact.

    And please don't get me wrong. “Avatar” has sold a ***huge*** number of tickets. But it hasn't sold more tickets than many other earlier box-office blockbusters.

    I hope this makes my position a little clearer. And thanks for writing.

  37. Stephane Palomba

    Hi Michelle,

    your article is very interesting. I however would like to challenge your ranking while adjusting Avatar box office with other movies business results. The facts indeed the ticket fares are more expensive for Avatar should actually be considered as an handicap in some ways as some people would have decided not to watch it because of such high pricing.

    Cheers

  38. mh

    >>>>>>>>>It would be be cool If you were right but unfortunately your math is wrong.

    Your comment was unnecessarily spiteful. Normally, the administrator would have trashed it right away. But I suggested we just remove the infantile name-calling and keep the attendance figures.

    My math isn't wrong. All you have to do is use your brain. If you know that 3D surcharges will add an extra 28.5%-40% to the price of a movie ticket, you have to subtract that from the total box-office revenues so you can get the # of tickets sold. That's called logic. (Taking into consideration the percentage of tickets sold at 3D/IMAX houses; in the case of “Avatar” that was 80% in the US.)

    By the way, where did you find those “official” figures? The Warner Bros. ledger? The Fox ledger? US studios use box-office figures, not attendance records to report a film's success.

    Those aren't official figures. All you did — or whoever came up with those figures — was divide the box office take of those films by the “average” ticket prices of their given year — without taking into consideration *where* those films made money.

    $7.61 is the 2010 ticket price “average” in the United States according to Box Office Mojo. Try watching “Avatar” in 3D for $7.61. See how many — if any — 3D/IMAX movie house in the US will let you in.

  39. Chuj

    It would be be cool If you were right but unfortunately your math is wrong. Here are the official numbers in millions of attendance:

    Avatar 91.7
    The Dark Knight 74.9
    Independence Day 69.3
    Home Alone 65.9

  40. mh

    >>>>I agree with Rich – Avatar has surpassed Titanic's worldwide box office when adjusted for inflation.

    True. But that doesn't tell the whole story…

    http://www.altfg.com/blog/box-office/avatar-titanic-worldwide-revenues-87129/

  41. Dennis

    I agree with Rich - Avatar has surpassed Titanic's worldwide box office when adjusted for inflation. And Avatar's run is not over with yet. Also, JR is correct when talking about bums on seats (great definition)because that is what the adjusted inflation list is detailing so why not just combine both charts and list number of Bums on Seats with gross amount! In the end Avatar's 2.5 Billion and counting is not going to be beaten for a long time!

  42. Stef
  43. Tony Robertson

    A lot of people keep bringing up that Gone With the Wind is at the top of the adjusted for inflation list. I think really it just boils down to a sour grapes kind of thinking. People saying that for the most part probably don't like Avatar and/or hate the idea of a 3d release doing this well. So they cry it is not the most popular movie.

    However, if it were another movie that they just thought was the best they had seen in years and/or was not a 3d release you would not hear a word out of those people. They would probably be “so what” as far as the adjusted list, at least more so but might still agree to some extent. I guess that is just human nature though, if you don't agree with the majority on something, you find every reason as to why their opinion is off.

    Putting Gone With the Wind at the top won't change the direction movies are going though, only those movies that rise to the top with todays prices are the ones that will get the attention and change the direction of how movies are done for the near future. Not a release from 70 years ago. The adjusted list has its place for those who want it, then there is the current list that is just done with today's prices. You can have two lists, there is no law against it.

  44. JR

    Measure inflation figures as a comparison when the horse hasn't finished running yet isn't quite fair. What would be more interesting is a measurement of bums on seats, that way you can discount dodgy inflation figures. Have you noticed how many of the films on the inflation list are pre-mid 80s? These days there are shorter runs, plus downloads PLUS cable AND dvd sales which eats into box office takings but earns more overall. It's also worth considering that people are willing to pay more for Avatar tickets b/c of the experience, not just b/c of inflation. All in all, the inflation comparison just doesn't seem to tell much truth.

    What would be the best comparison would be bums on seats vs days of the film released. I can't think of a better comparison.

  45. Rich

    Avatar has only made 28 percent of its totall gross domestically. It may be 15th when adjusted for ticket price inflation but world wide it has passed titanic even when adjusted for the changing dollar. I hope it is rereleased again becuase then domestically it could be in the top ten in tickets sold.

  46. Percy

    Ticket prices may be considerably higher now than they were 12 years ago, but ilegal movie downloading is also considerably higher now than it was 12 years ago.
    so critics and tickets inflactioners, shoud consider that aswell.

  47. Loyola adora titanic

    Hello americanos de pakotilla
    vengo de un mundo q no os podeis imaginaaar xD
    vengo de el mundo Avataaaaaaarrr!! muahahahaha
    mi avatar se llama HJCUF4HCQN4C4NTUF

  48. Dennis

    IT IS VERY DIFFICULT FOR AVATAR TO BREAK THE RECORD OF TITANIC.

  49. Able Lawrence

    I too did not find Titanic any special. (May be having been used to Indian films and the dislike it has created for melodrama)

    Now a lot of Occidentals use Bollywood cinema to study “Indian culture” It is a curious case.

    The only reality that the Hindi films reflect the imagined hyperreality of Bollywood movies themselves. Over the last decade, life has started imitating the movies (which reflect each other. In fact current ones are highly post modern and have references to earlier fims frame by frame especially in song sequences).

    Even the “North Indian Wedding” has been changed by the imagined depiction of weddings in the movies. It is NOT the other way round. It is a case of movies invading life and not reverse.

    Movies always refer to other movies and art forms.
    There really are no original stories. Only degrees of originality and treatment.

    It is how you tell an old story in a new way to make it attractive that counts. Or you can tell a new story the old way. New story in a new way, will not sell. That is what you get in “art films” or experimental films which you cannot get to see in a theatre even when we want to. (They dont even get released!)

    So much for asking Cameron to tell a new story. They are asking him to pass through the “eye of the needle” with elephantine movie (It might be easier with a camel

  50. Rebecca

    I personally don't like titanic, period end of statement. Avatar is just in my opinion so much better. titanic was just not for me, but then of course I didn't like Fantastic Mr. Fox either.

  51. Able Lawrence

    I have a feeling that Avatar will be the first 3 Billion dollar film and will silence all those who talk about inflation. I think it might even be running in theatres one year from now. I saw it only in 2D (twice with family, and took a friend along for the second time), and want to see it in 3D. I will have to travel few thousand kilometres to see it in 3D and looking for an excuse to do it.

    Lots of critics who crib about the lack of depth do not seem understand that this is a truly post modern film. The real movie is the audience experience derived by the interaction of the images with his/her past experiences including other movies, novels and cultural backgrounds. So it is truly remarkable that people of diverse background from India to Bolivia and China are deriving their own equally relevant meanings. The fact that it is slightly underwritten is its greatest strength (mostly likely deliberate by the wily and clever Cameron) so that it is open to such a wide variety of interpretations depending on what you want to read into it.
    I myself felt like I had seen half a dozen parallel moves and more (the more you think the more different meanings you can feel) It has the same feel as Terminator or Star Wars or AI where you can keep seeing again and again and never get bored.

    James Cameron understands something about movies that nit witted critics do not understand. It seems these critics want movies to be made for them. Cameron knows that it is important to make movies that a large number of audience from around the world can relate to.

    The most amusing is the reactions of the americal right wingers who cannot go beyond seeing anti-americanism in everything.

    This is a movie with global meaning.

    I shall just mention the contexts for some diverse meaning below just for a single dimension of colonialism

    a) East India Company and colonial exploitation in the making of the British Indian Empire

    b) Displacement of tribals by Indian mining companies in the jungles of Orissa and Jharkhand, two Indian states

    c) Human destruction of our planets environment

    Colonization of Americas have been pointed out by every one.

    Critics are upset that their story is not sufficiently portrayed in its “true” colours.

    Alas, all these interpretations are both right and wrong and they are all valid depending on your perspective (ie who you are). It is the true greatness of Cameron's genius that he has included just about enough for all of us to see what we want and has omitted any specifics which would leave prevent us from thinking all these parallel stories.

    The Science Fiction genre allows the film maker sufficient freedon to be every thing an nothing at the same time to each one of us

    As far as debates, and cribbing about the box office, let us wait for the story end (in 2011?)

  52. Rob….u may not have liked it — but to get a feel for the passion of some viewers u might want to check out some of the Avatar discussion boards. There are peeps that have seen it 8 times. It's got a lot of the same trending as Titanic — just that Titanic got the repeat viewing from teen girls….this time it's teen guys and geeks. There doesn't seem much doubt that Avatar will surpass Titanic's raw total of $600m (it's $491m now and is probably going to pass Titanic before Valentine's day and possibly as early as Feb 6th)….the question is could it possibly somehow get to $850m or whatever it would take to beat Titanic after adjusting for higher ticket prices? That would be an amazing accomplishment. And while it's true that Avatar has higher ticket prices and that helps it — it also has the illegal download problem that didn't exist when Titanic came out — over 1m illegal downloads and counting. How would 1m illegal downloads have affected Titanic's gross?

  53. Rob

    The visuals and 3D were good for Avatar but that's about it. Found it to be boring and predictable. The hype isn't real. It's good to see an article like this. Titanic is still far, far ahead in number of tickets sold as is Star Wars im pretty sure. I remember people going to see Titanic 5 times. It was a pain to watch Avatar once.

  54. dave

    Something else you should throw into the picture is that in today's world people can just download movies instead of seeing them in theatres, so even if Avatar didn't beat out box office numbers, I bet more people will see it in the first month than Titanic. Avatar>Titanic

  55. chirag

    i wil pray not the record should be breaken

  56. chirag

    avtar doesnt have power to break the record of titanic even if it breaks titanic best movie ever to be realeased in hollywood

  57. Hi Michelle,
    Thanks for writing back. Rather than get too longwinded here, I posted about our discussion at the link below. Briefly, I acknowledged the ticket price issue but made the point that we have to 'do the math' by considering not just the ticket price differential, but also inflation — and I ran the numbers which show that, adjusted for inflation and ticket prices, Avatar is at $250m thru 12 days and this compares to Titanic's adjuted figure of $164m for the same 12 days (Titanic's raw figure for 12 days is $104m). Anyway, this will be fun to watch.

    Here's the link:
    http://avatarvstitanic.wordpress.com/2009/12/31/avatar-vs-titanic-debating-the-inflation-and-ticket-price-adjustment-issue/

  58. Michelle Hutton

    Michael,

    Thanks for writing.

    I'd say that AVATAR will be around for quite a while…

    Now, the best way to compare the two films at this point would be to know how many tickets each of them sold. Also, it's good to remember that TITANIC was initially shown in “only” 2,614 screens vs. 3,452 for AVATAR. That's a huge difference. TITANIC's widest release, according to Box Office Mojo, was in 3,265 screens.

    Also, TITANIC has a 3hr15m running time, so it's more than half an hour longer than AVATAR. Back in 1998, did that mean fewer screenings per day? That's something else worth considering.

    Check out:
    http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=titanic.htm
    http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=avatar.htm

  59. Michelle,
    I realize you wrote on this opening day. And you're absolutely right that ticket prices are higher now, and that's an advantage for Avatar. That said — do you have any further comment now — 12 days in? Avatar stands at 250m compared to 104m for Titanic after 12 days. Unlike virtually all megablockbusters which drop 40-50% in their second weekend, Avatar only dropped from 77m to 75.6m in its second weekend, and its second full week will be 10% or more ahead of its first full week — very 'Titanic-like' in terms of trends.

  60. Nancy Madlin

    I also noticed the MANY and striking similarities between Avatar and Disney's Atlantis…..So strange that critics haven't noticed it….

    I was thinking that Cameron MUST've paid for the rights to Atlantis; I'm surprised there's nothing else on the Web when I Googled it.

    Now that you mention it, I also see the great similarity to DELGO!

  61. Avatar Movie

    Boxofficemojo has just updated the Monday numbers, and thats the total worldwide. USD 285 Million! (93 domestic + 192 international)

  62. Wilandrea Blair

    I've seen it.

    It's amazing visually speaking but, I sort of had a hard time following the story.

    I felt a bit overwhelmed with the incredible special effects and the visual aspects of this movie, that distracted me from following the storyline.

    I mean, how many zillions of dollars Hollywood has to spend, in order to show off their technology, and high-tech resources?

    It was entertaining but it didn't make any impact on me, intellectually speaking.

    Some stupid guy at my office told me: “If I want intellectual stuff I read a book, I don't go to a movie”

    “Yeah….here is some more popcorn” I thought to myself…

  63. Michelle Hutton

    Hello,

    I didn't mention it because the piece was about box-office grosses, not film costs.

    Also, it's important to remember that movie-production-cost inflation is not the same as movie-ticket-price inflation. The two can't be compared using the same ratio.

    Cost figures I've found for “Titanic” are estimates, not official studio figures. The same goes for “Avatar.”

    Some estimate that “Titanic” would have cost $250-$275 million in 2008/9 dollars. “Avatar” production cost estimates range from $200-$500 million. (Fox says it was about $200 million, but I haven't seen any documentation on that posted anywhere online.)

    And remember that neither estimate includes advertising/print/distribution costs.

  64. irastev

    Using the same math as you used for the tickets, Avatar cost less to make than Titanic.

    I wonder why you didn't think to mention that…

  65. Matt

    PLUS…Titanic stayed as the #1 movie in the country for over 3 months.

    Titanic didn't start off that successful, but word-of-mouth for weeks and weeks after its release is what made Titanic so successful.

  66. Ken

    I haven't seen either Avatar or Delgo yet… But has anyone seen Disney's Atlantis??? The villian, character design with the natives, the environment, and the minor characters strongly parallel Avatar.

  67. Karrie

    Has anyone seen that animated film DELGO? Avatar looks just like it. I watched both today and the similarities are amazing. I'm surprised nobody else has noticed. Maybe it's because the DELGO film did so poorly in the box office. Who knows?