Since when is a film judged by how much it grosses? Without any adjustment for inflation? That just doesn't make any sense to me at all. You have to adjust for inflation, or even better just count the number of tickets sold. Of course, the statistics for tickets sold back in the pre-WWII days aren't the most reliable. They powers that be always looked at box office gross, even back then. But with a little math and a little common sense, one can estimate the number of tickets sold during a film's release fairly accurately.
According to BoxOfficeMojo.com, the top ten films of all-time based on estimated domestic ticket sales are as follows:
- Gone with the Wind* - 202,044,600
- Star Wars* - 178,119,600
- The Sound of Music - 142,415,400
- E.T.: The Extraterrestrial* - 141,854,300
- The Ten Commandments - 131,000,000
- Titanic - 128,345,900
- Jaws - 128,078,800
- Dr. Zhivago - 124,135,400
- The Exorcist* - 110,568,700
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs* - 109,000,000
*Film was theatrically released more than one time.
Notice any film missing from that list? I would have sworn that The Dark Knight would have easily have been in the Top 10. Certainly it sold more than films like Dr. Zhivago or The Exorcist. Right?
Nope. The Dark Knight has sold a little less than 75 million tickets domestically since it's release. That puts it at 26th all-time, sandwiched in between Grease and Thunderball. Thunderball? Really?
In my 42 years, I have witnessed what I thought were 5 box office phenomena. Jaws, Star Wars, E.T., Titanic and The Dark Knight. There were others that sold a lot of tickets, like the rest of the Star Wars films and the Indiana Jones films. Those were huge. But they didn't have the cultural impact of the Big 5. Those were media mega-giants that seemed to just last forever in the theaters. Selling tremendous amounts of tickets. Or so I thought.
Now I know that some of the films on the list were released more than once. But of the nearly $180 million tickets that Star Wars sold, how many do you think were from the initial release? And how many were sold during it's lame re-release? I'm thinking at least 75% of the total tickets sold were during the initial release. Just a guess, but it played in the theaters for many months back in 1977 and so many people saw it more than once. Some saw it dozens of times. It was a true phenomenon.
I thought The Dark Knight was the same kind of phenomenon. But it wasn't. While it is listed as second all-time for domestic grosses, it falls far behind Titanic in estimated ticket sales. Far behind.
So let's cut the crap, shall we. Let's stop looking at unadjusted gross for how well a movie performs. The Top 100 would be littered with films from the past decade or so. The Dark Knight may have seemed like a juggernaut, but back in 1965 Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music kicked it's fucking ass!
Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. All the box office winners are doing it.