erik lundegaard

The Biggest Movie of the 2000s Ranks Just Behind the Third-Biggest Movie of 1965

The good and bad of blogging is that there's always something to write about because there's always something online worth refuting. This is good because you always have a subject. This is bad because you always have a distraction from what you should be writing about.

Allow me to be distracted this morning.

I came across this HuffPost piece via, which, for some reason, thought it link-worthy. Danny Groner argues that the biggest hits of the decade are cartoonish, explosive granfalloons but the "Twilight" series is character-driven and appeals to both fortysomething parents and their tweens. Plus they're boffo box office. So Hollywood should take notice. Or already has:

Fourties [sic] these days skews younger, not older, and that's where Hollywood is seemingly heading in the next decade. Sure, new parents are bound to pop up to replace the young moms who have outgrown Dreamworks' animated films. Nevertheless, if this decade's enormous box office stats has taught us anything it's that people are willing to see twice as many movies as long as it keeps them feeling young and in touch with what's popular.

His point seems to be that Hollywood movies, driven by animation and explosions, are more popular than ever, but they can be even more popular if less attention is paid to kids, and the kids in all of us, than to tweens and the tween-parents in all of us. Or something.

Despite whatever argument that is, my disagreement with him comes earlier, when he talks about how popular movies have been in the 2000s:

It's evident that big blockbuster franchises reigned supreme in a way they never had before and nobody would have anticipated. And they did it bigger than any decade before. These so-called "kids' movies" pulled in huge numbers around the world.

So few words there, so much wrong.

  1. This decade, blockbusters continued to reign supreme in the way they have since the 1970s. It's nothing new.
  2. I believe this was anticipated.
  3. They did it bigger than any decade before only if you don't adjust for inflation. Once you adjust for inflation, it's a different, sadder story.

I'm sure someone, somewhere, has a spreadsheet of adjusted numbers for international box office, but inflation-adjusted domestic numbers are easily accessible online. And what do they tell us? That, at least it terms of individual films, the blockbusters of this decade blocked little and busted less.

Since the advent of sound, six of the eight decades are represented in the six highest-grossing (and inflation-adjusted) domestic films of all time:

  1. Gone with the Wind (1939): $1.4 billion
  2. Star Wars (1977): $1.2 billion
  3. The Sound of Music (1965): $1 billion
  4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982): $1 billion
  5. The Ten Commandments (1956): $.9 billion
  6. Titanic (1997): $.9 billion

Which decades are missing? The 1940s and the 2000s. The 1940s don't show up until no. 20, "Fantasia" ($.6 billion) while the 2000s don't show up until no. 27, "The Dark Knight" ($.5 billion). And what ranks just ahead of the biggest hit of our decade? "Thunderball," which wasn't even the biggest box-office hit of its year. It wasn't even the second-biggest box-office hit of its year. It came out in 1965 and both "The Sound of Music" and "Dr Zhivago" did better at getting our asses in the seats.

So the biggest hit of this decade ranks just behind the third-biggest-hit of 1965...and movies are more popular than ever?

I'll admit that if you toss in DVD sales and rentals, TV, PPV, etc., movies may be more popular than ever. But not in terms of box office, which is Mr. Groner's sole measure.

I'll also admit that the way blockbusters reigned supreme did change a bit this decade. But that's a discussion for another day.

No tagsPosted at 09:53 AM on Fri. Nov 20, 2009 in category Movies - Box Office  


Mister B wrote:

Dawn was just wondering about the number of films that are released each year, so I went to IMDb to do some research.

In 2006, excluding direct-to-video releases, anything having to do with TV, and even counting movies that haven't received any rating votes, IMDb lists almost 6,000 titles released during that year. Here's a brief chart showing some years and their numbers of movies:

1996 -- 1,448
1986 -- 950
1966 -- 511
1946 -- 972

In 1939 (one of the best years for movies), the number is 810.

I'm guessing the advent of digital technology (and the explosion in the number of screens a movie can be shown on) has made it infinitely easier to release a movie to a theatre these days.

And it would also appear that in terms of box-office success (and for the most part, quality), less is more.

Back when "Return Of The Jedi" came out (1983), I saw it five times in the theatre on its first run. The fifth time was four months after its release.

These days, movies come and go so fast, if I want to see a movie five times, I'd better go on nearly all of the weekends it's in theaters.

When we went to Alderwood 16 to see "2012" the other day, one of the big posters on the outside of the building was for "GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra". It opened on August 7th. The DVD just came out. THE POSTER IS STILL ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE MOVIE THEATRE! IT DOESN'T EVEN LOOK REMOTELY WEATHERED!

Maybe if a movie does what probably happened to "Thunderball" and is shown at one theater in town and only one, it will play for several months and make a good appearance on one of those adjusted-for-inflation lists someday.

There's a lot of crap out there these days, but it doesn't stick around for long. Unfortunately, it also appears that there's a lot of crap waiting to be shown right after the older crap leaves the theatres and goes to DVD.
Comment posted on Sun. Nov 22, 2009 at 01:46 AM

Erik wrote:

Mister B:

What you're talking about with "G.I. Joe" is a given. Don't even fight it. And it's only getting worse. It's my assumption that eventually most movies will be released simultaneously on PayPerView and theaters—- with "eventually" being sooner than you think.

The 6,000 titles released in 2006 probably includes shorts, etc., and trumps the previous figures because a) it's easier to make movies now so more people do it, and b) the filmmakers make sure knows about it. Back in 1996 IMDb didn't exist, so there was no one to tell, no PR to get out.

More to the point, only about 600 of those 6,000 titles were released into movie theaters in the U.S., and that's our measure here. As I stated above, it used to be the sole measure of a film's popularity. Now it's the first measure, which is sometimes taken as the sole measure.

Even more to the point: Yes, films like "Thunderball" stuck around a long time, but they were released into very few theaters. Few theaters, long time. Now: many theaters, short time. Overall I'd say "TDK"'s b.o. was hurt more by its short run and December DVD release than it was helped by its easy accessibility to the masses in July, but we don't really know. It's a whole new game now that needs a whole different kind of measurement of popularity.
Comment posted on Sun. Nov 22, 2009 at 09:19 AM

Mister B wrote:

Maybe DVD sales/rentals and box office need to be combined nowadays.
Comment posted on Sun. Nov 22, 2009 at 02:04 PM
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