This demonstrates that if one discounts inflation, most of the good films are all in the past.
The sources of data are IMDB.com, the MPAA and box-office archives.
Firstly, the current report from IMDB.com provides the list of all-time top grossing films in the United States, using box-office revenues.
The curremt top-ten are:
USA Box Office$
|4||E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial||$434,949,459|
|5||Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace||$431,065,444|
|7||Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith||$377,864,535|
|8||The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King||$377,019,252|
|10||The Passion of the Christ||$370,270,943|
I applied a deflator to convert the top-grossing film revenues to constant 2005 dollars. I also retrieved a summary of historical ticket prices and converted this to constant dollars as well to use the same base.
The following are some interesting charts on the revenue generated by top-grossing films from 1937, the earliest data was available from IMDB.com:
One notes that box-office revenues seem to be leveling off, despite spikes caused by the blockbusters of the last few years - mostly the fantasy trilogies.
One notes the peak in viewership for top-grossing films in 1939, and the significant drop since then, recently improved. One also notes that 2005 has not contributed much thus far, despite some huge block-busters being released.
The following demonstrates how the ranking of films changes when measured in constant dollars rather than current dollars.
For comparison, these are the Top Grossing films, by Constant 2005 dollars
|Rank in Const $||Title|
Const $ Revenue$
|1||Gone with the Wind||$2,759,101,083|
|2||Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs||$2,498,993,041|
|5||The Sound of Music||$1,001,314,638|
|6||One Hundred and One Dalmatians||$987,096,774.2|
|9||E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial||$871,642,202.4|
|10||The Jungle Book||$819,905,271.7|
The preliminary conclusion one draws is that revenues generated from the biggest films are not providing much help in keeping revenues up. Also, viewership seems to be down for these films, probably because of home video sales for them.
The Star Wars films are especially interesting. When ranked by Constant 2005 dollar revenue, the ranking is:
The Excel file used to generate these reports is provided. The Source Data sheet has the data used. The Original Web Query Data sheet has a web query which is refreshable to allow up-to-date revenue data. You are welcome to continue to work the data.
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