Over the weekend, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight crossed a threshold in actual dollars that only one other movie in history has crossed and that's the $500 million mark. It is, indeed, a wonderous achievement and Warner Brothers should be proud.
This, however, is a misleading number. In fact, it will be virtually impossible for The Dark Knight to broach even the top 20 of highest grossing films of all time.
"WHAT?!" I can hear you screaming through the internets, "How can that be? It's number two all-time you jack ass! Why am I reading this further?"
And, though you're technically correct, The Dark Knight has only barely came into the top 30 of highest grossing films of all time list, which is much, much more accurate and a much better measuring stick for the success of movies. What we're actually talking about is the highest grossing films of all-time, but this time adjusted for inflation. I know it may seem odd, but it really puts things into perspective.
I mean, take Gone With the Wind, for example. It ranks #90 on the all-time, non adjusted rankings. It made almost $190 million dollars at the box-office, which is pretty unremarkable these days. What is remarkable, is that this film made $190 million in 1939, when ticket prices were literally pocket change. When you expand that for inflation, Gone With the Wind made David O. Selznick and company made $1.4 billion in today's dollars, making it the highest grossing film of all time. Can you imagine how many people would have to go see the Dark Knight again and again to see it get anywhere close to this number?
The top 10 looks a lot different when adjusted for inflation... Take a look at just the top 10:
(graph courtesy of Box Office Mojo)
This is a much more accurate representation of the popularity, income and ticket sales of films compared to the all-time list that everyone seems to use as a benchmark. They do it because it would be virtually impossible to broach this list today and there are movies on here most people are too stupid these days to have heard of. And with the exception of Titanic, these films are generally amazing and worth every penny they earned for one reason or another.
And not to take any prestige away from The Dark Knight, I'm sure everyone has noticed that it's playing on every screen and ticket prices have been jacked up. Back when I was seeing Phantom Menace every other night, it was running me $6.50 to see it (and this was after they hiked the price specifically for the movie.) If I want to see Dark Knight tonight, that's at least $8.00, more on the weekends. $10.00 if I want to see it on IMAX. It would be even more if I didn't live in a reasonably cheap film-ticket market. I've seen movies on both coasts where the evening price is $12 or more.
Want to see another graph from Box Office Mojo with The Dark Knight on the graph? Here's 21-31...
Does The Dark Knight have the legs to pull in another $15 million to beat The Jungle Book? Maybe.
$50 million to beat Mary Poppins? $55 to beat the Godfather? My guess is probably not. After over a month of release, it's only just barely beaten Ghostbusters and the summer is over. Prestige pictures are going to start coming out. It's already fallen from the top weekend spot over and over again and now that school has started it's take will slow further. It's had a good run, but the numbers are a bit misleading. They're simply selling less tickets to less people at a much higher price.
It is a great movie, don't get me wrong, but this highlights a little bit of what's wrong with the film and exhibition industries. I truly think that Dark Knight would have made a lot more money if they make the tickets cheaper. Go back to early 90's ticket prices, drop the price of popcorn and you've got a lot more people able to afford a trip to the movie theatre on a weekly basis. Then maybe The Dark Knight could have had some more competition with these films.
So, there you have it. My two cents. (Which could have got me most of the way into a screening of Gone With the Wind...)