While Titanic is officially the #1 film of all time with its $1.8 billion dollar worldwide gross and its $600 million domestic gross, records were meant to be broken.
Especially in the film industry. For example, the record for a five day opening has been broken and reset six times since 1996.
That's the problem with the system that the box office runs on. It's monetary. Instead of doing it by tickets sold, it's done by how much cash a film makes. But consider this: breaking $100 million is no longer the official term for a "blockbuster", four billion more dollars in tickets were sold in 2003 as opposed to 1993, and when Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones grosses $310 million dollars and becomes the 10th highest grossing film of all time in the United States, it's deemed a "mixed success."
See, the music industry and book industry has always charted success by amount of hardbacks, paperbacks, CDs and tapes sold instead of how much was made. These records stand the test of time, while movie records do not due to incredible inflation issues. Which sadly means that N'Sync's No Strings Attached still has the best opening week in music history.
Yet, Brandon Gray has found a way around this. The mastermind behind http://www.boxofficemojo.com/BoxOfficeMojo, a website that receives one million readers a month and has found Gray fame as a frequent talking head on CNN and Access Hollywood as well as commentating on box office achievements in USA Today and the Los Angeles Times.
Brandon Gray researched and found that Motion Picture Association of America has details on average ticket prices from 1910 to 2004. He then worked out a formula with hundreds of films that went something like this:
box office gross of a film
avg. ticket price of film at the time of it's release
(NOTE: The resulting number is the estimated number of tickets sold)
estimated number of tickets sold
$6.14 (avg ticket price 2004)
The result will be the gross of the film when adjusted for ticket price inflation.
And while the formula seems glitchy, Gray has most of the bases covered. He makes sure to see if the overall gross of a film includes a re-release. If the film does, he will add to the total adjusted gross by adding in the amount of money the film made during its re-release when adjusted for inflation in whatever year or years the film was re-released and then add the adjusted re-release totals back in to keep the information correct.
Films released in December, its gross obviously doesn't end in the year the film was released. So, Gray takes the movie's gross from its December opening until December 31 of that year and then adjusts it accordingly to the average ticket price that year. He then adjusts the remaining gross in the following year according to that year's ticket price and the formula still works.
Yet, Gray understands that many movies from the 80s to mid-90s may not have as extensive weekend box office data as we have for modern films now, and that many movies prior to 1980 may not have weekend data at all. When the full timeframe for a film and what it made when isn't available (aka: ticket sales cannot be calculated) then adjusting is based on its total earnings and the average ticket price for the year it was released.
And yes, the formula still has some problems, yet Gray makes a good point about his formula on BoxOfficeMojo:
This should be a good general guideline to gauge a movie's popularity and compare it to other movies released in different years or decades. Adjusting for ticket price inflation is not an exact science and should be used to give you a general idea of what a movie might have made if released in a different year, assuming it sold the same number of tickets.
Gray also cites that there are many things that could affect his numbers. Such as increases or decreases in the population, the total number of movies in the marketplace at a given time, economic conditions that may help or hurt the entertainment industry as a whole (e.g., war), the relative price of a movie ticket to other commodities in a given year, competition with other related medium such as the invention and advancements of television and other home entertainment.
With all that said:
Top 10 Best Grossing Films of All Time in the United States of America - Adjusted for Ticket Price Inflation
- "Gone With the Wind" - $1,240,554,000 adjusted
- "Star Wars: A New Hope" - $1,093,654,300 adjusted
- "The Sound of Music" - $874,430,400 adjusted
- "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" - $870,985,600 adjusted
- "The Ten Commandments" - $804,340,000 adjusted
- "Titanic" - $788,043,700 adjusted
- "Jaws" - $786,403,900 adjusted
- "Doctor Zhivago" - $762,191,700 adjusted
- "The Exorcist" - $678,891,600 adjusted
- "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" - $669,260,000 adjusted
While magazines and television shows have began cashing in with things like "Top 50 Best Bachelors", "Top 20 Best Rock Albums Of All Time" and "The 35 Most Influential Science Fiction Films of All Time," It's always nice to have a chart based on fact. Which is what Brandon Gray gave film fans everywhere with his genius formula on his brilliant website.
http://www.boxofficemojo.com/ (The best out there. Not a thing in the world comes close)