Saturday, July 14, 2007

Many more people fell asleep during Dr. Zhivago than I thought

Today, it seems the entertainment press, egged on by the chest thumping of the studios, gives a preponderance of weight to the box office of any given film. Biggest 3 day opening! Best holiday weekend! Best first week by a movie based on toys! Second best first month for a non-sequel film not based on children's literature, a television show, theme park ride or comic book!

But dollars are relative. I still recall the fond days of my youth, when my parents would drop me off at the theatre with $10, and I could enjoy the flick, a barrell of coke, a vat of popcorn, chocolate covered peanuts and still have money for video games. Now, you can't get in and out for less than $20 a head. So how would the all time box office earners look, if all the dollars were the same, regardless of time period? Glad you asked, because there's this handy list.

Some rankings aren't surprising. Star Wars, no matter the time period, was a huge hit and cultural phenomenon. And I've always expected that Gone with the Wind would be near the top. But some of the others are surprising:
  • The Sound of Music? The 10 Commandments? Love Story? Wow.
  • You'll also see just how all those theme parks and creepy animatronic presidents were built, given the frequency of Disney entries on the list.
  • Dr. Freakin' Zhivago? I love a good, literate period piece as much as the next person, but this was one of the most snooze inducing films I've ever seen. And this comes from someone who actually owns The English Patient on DVD. And it's not that I don't appreciate the tropes of Russian literature. After all, Woody Allen's Love and Death is one of my favorite movies. ("If it turns out that there IS a God, I don't think that he's evil. I think that the worst you can say about him is that basically he's an underachiever." – Boris)
  • Cleopatra, widely regarded as a colossal bomb and responsible for nearly destroying 20th Century Fox, shows up at #37.
  • OJ may be guilty (and sadly, killed the wrong Nicole Simpson) but he can still take pride that he was in the top 50 (The Towering Inferno sits right on the number).
  • Lots of entries for the early Bond films, which is nice to see.

When looking at the list purely in terms of total dollars, it obviously skews toward the more recent blockbusters generating their take with more expensive tickets. But it is certainly interesting to play "apples to apples" and see the films organized by (roughly) the number of moviegoers interested in paying to see them, probably a more accurate representation of their popularity.

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