Box Office Inflation

Is anyone surprised at the enormous amount of revenue being generated at the box office by movies recently?  Well, if you are, you shouldn’t be.  Simply put: prices are up, the dollar is down, and inflation is evident.

Let’s take a look at the list of highest-grossing movies in film history.  In the top 20, there only 3 movies that weren’t made after 2000.  And out of the top 100 highest-grossing movies of all time, the most-represented year is 2009 when we look at numbers unadjusted for inflation.  Does this mean we live in the new Golden Age of Cinema?  That’s hardly debateable; movies today are packed with bad acting that makes Nicholas Cage’s performance in ‘Drive Angry’ seem Oscar-worthy.

So, what happens when this statistic is adjusted for inflation?  Let’s take movie ticket sales and instead of use the amount of revenue generated at the same of each movie’s release, we will adjust it for inflation and use the year 2011’s average ticket price, which was $7.95.  When we do this, the top 20 list looks completely different.  ‘Gone With The Wind’ is the highest grossing movie in film history.  In fact, only 1 movie was made in the past decade.  But that’s not all; over half (12/20) of the movies were made before 1980, or over 30 years ago.

What we should take away from this is simple: Inflation is present in all aspects of life.  Of course, there are other factors at play that distort the figures — ticket purchasing trends, marketing, population size, etc.  However, with that being said, the discrepancy between the adjusted figures and the non-adjusted figures are too big to be covered by those excuses.  The bottom line is that Hollywood has not been pumping out more high quality work lately (even though 6 of the 9 movies in film history that have grossed over $1 billion have been made in the last 3 years).  Instead, the dollar is being devalued and is simply worth less.

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