The Box Office Conundrum: Part 1

No, this is not a murder mystery set in a movie theatre.  Rather, this is the defense of rational thought when examining the idea of what makes a film successful.  As it is, there seem to be a few type of success in Hollywood.  Critical acclaim and awards immediately come to mind.  Cult like followings similar to Rocky Horror Picture Show or The Room. But despite all of those other means of measuring a film, Hollywood loves nothing more than to look at the box office gross.

Now I have been over why using box office gross as a metric of success is truly useless.  I’d even go so far as to say that the numbers are a hindrance to cinema as a whole.  Yesterday, I briefly examined how detrimental this metric is to the cinematic community.  It is all about box office.  Fill the seats.  And what’s the best way to do that?  Examine the top ten grossings of a film.  You will find a majority of franchises and sequels and prequels.  Those are the facts that studio execs are contemplating when looking for their next picture.  Is it any wonder that franchises have become so popular in the last quarter century?

Posit this, what is a more effective means of determining the public’s desires at the theatre?  Is it simply looking at grosses, or would the actual number of tickets sold be more appropriate?  50 years ago, an argument could have been made that they are one in the same, but with the vast differences in prices over details like 3D or IMAX, it stands to reason that analyzing audience attendance via box office gross is deficient.  So in order to get these figures in the right context, there is a lot we are going to have to do.

First, take the top 25 films based on ticket gross and then compare those totals after they are adjusted for inflation.  Attach the budget as well because that will come in handy later.  We are going to determine what films sold the most tickets according to inflation, what era produced the most movies on the list, era-by-era determine which decade made the most money on average, and finally, come up with a list of films with adjusted gross and then determine the rate of return on their investment.

Most of this data will come from BoxOfficeMojo.

Finally, when all of that is done, we’ll try and examine the data and determine if studios are coming to the same conclusion.

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