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Well;

I'd say by looking at the numbers the Dark Knight will overtake Star Wars as #2 Movie of all time, just 3 weeks released and already #7.

I know not apples-apples, 1977 money vs 2008 money, still never would have expected a Batman movie to do that. (I'm not dissing the Dark Knight either)

Guess since I graduated in 1980, have a complete Star Wars comic collection that I bought myself as new back in the day, just not ready for a new #2.

All Time Box Office (U.S.)
All Time Box Office (U.S.)
Rank Title Dist. Cumulative
Gross Release
Date
1 Titanic Paramount Pictures $600,788,188 12/19/1997
2 Star Wars 20th Century Fox $460,998,007 05/25/1977
3 Shrek 2 DreamWorks SKG $441,226,247 05/19/2004
4 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Universal Pictures $435,110,554 06/11/1982
5 Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace N/A $431,088,301 05/19/1999
6 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures $423,315,812 07/07/2006
7 The Dark Knight Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution $405,699,734 07/18/2008
8 Spider-Man Sony Pictures Releasing $403,706,375 05/03/2002
9 Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith 20th Century Fox $380,270,577 05/19/2005
10 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King New Line Cinema $377,027,325 12/17/2003
I see on the all time adjusted it's 58th place.
Adjusted for Ticket Price Inflation*

Rank Title (click to view) Studio Adjusted Gross Unadjusted Gross Year^
1 Gone with the Wind MGM $1,430,476,000 $198,676,459 1939^
2 Star Wars Fox $1,261,086,700 $460,998,007 1977^
3 The Sound of Music Fox $1,008,300,900 $158,671,368 1965
4 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial Uni. $1,004,328,700 $435,110,554 1982^
5 The Ten Commandments Par. $927,480,000 $65,500,000 1956
6 Titanic Par. $908,688,900 $600,788,188 1997
7 Jaws Uni. $906,798,000 $260,000,000 1975
8 Doctor Zhivago MGM $878,879,000 $111,721,910 1965
9 The Exorcist WB $782,826,200 $232,671,011 1973^
10 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Dis. $771,720,000 $184,925,486 1937^

50 The Towering Inferno Fox $434,539,700 $116,000,000 1974
51 Spider-Man 2 Sony $425,923,900 $373,585,825 2004
52 My Fair Lady WB $424,800,000 $72,000,000 1964
53 The Greatest Show on Earth Par. $424,800,000 $36,000,000 1952
54 National Lampoon's Animal House Uni. $424,023,100 $141,600,000 1978^
55 The Passion of the Christ NM $422,710,300 $370,782,930 2004^
56 Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith Fox $420,018,000 $380,270,577 2005
57 Back to the Future Uni. $418,078,600 $210,609,762 1985
58 The Dark Knight WB $410,777,100 $410,777,101 2008
59 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers NL $408,023,400 $341,786,758 2002^
60 The Sixth Sense BV $407,660,200 $293,506,292 1999
 

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When calculating boxoffice gross, it's to remember is that the profit split today is completely different than in the past. In general, the theater's take was 40 %
and the rest went to the distributor. However, if the theater contributed
to some of the expenses (co-opt advertising for example) they would
get a higher percentage. Today, the distributor takes 90 % of the boxoffice
receipts for the first two weeks so unless the film plays an extended run
in the megaplex where the percentage is pro-rated upwards for the theater,
they might just be breaking even if not showing a loss despite the high ticket
sales.


The other thing to consider is that prior to the advant of home video, most
popular movies were re-issued in theaters multiple times. "Gone with the Wind"
was re-issued in 1947, 1954, 1961, 1968, 1973 and 1997 for example which
would account for it's high volume of ticket sales. Other movies that were
re-issued on this list include "My Fair Lady", "The Ten Commandments",
"The Sound of Music", "Star Wars", "E.T", "Snow White" (every seven years)
and "Doctor Zhivago". I guess that makes the high grosses of films like "The
Towering Inferno" and "Jaws" more impressive since they generated their
boxoffice gross from their single theaterical release and were not re-released.
"E.T" stands out in that while it was a smash hit in it's first release, it performed
poorly in it's re-issue.


And let's factor in the astronomical costs associated with theatrical exhibition
(prints and advertising or "P & A" shorthand in the trade) which are far greater
than the other markets like DVD which has very low recoupment vs. profit
figures.


I know the trade papers still utilize 'boxoffice gross' as an indicator of which
are the top movies of all time but it's an outdated method of calculation.
It worked prior to the seventies when theatrical was the primary source
of revenue. Today, the bulk of the revenue and profit come from the
worldwide home video markets (DVD, cable, video on demand etc.) over
an extended period of time rather than the brief, one shot theatrical take of a
film. So to determine the top selling (popular and profitable) movies they
should factor in all of the markets from the initial release to the present rather
than just theatrical grosses. Some films perform better in home video than
in theaters rendering the ticket sales meaningless as an indicator of popularity
and overall success. When you factor these things in, the list
of the top movies of all time would be quite different than what's usually posted
in the trade magazines or on line. It's like listing only hardcover sales for novels
and leaving out the paperback figures when calculating the gross.
 

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Interesting thread. I am just amazed that films like Star Wars from 1977 and even ET from '82 can survive on that list by today's tallies.

I wonder what Star Wars would do if they counted the home video earnings and created a category of profitability called total gross.

I think the reason they still use B.O. Gross as an indicator is because (and this is just my opinion I don't claim any insight here) every monday they report this for the movies that opened that weekend. It's no more than an ad for your local cineplex. Box Office is immediate. The news media probably won't care about total gross because once it moves to home video it's history.
 

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Wayde,

Good point. I'll only add that to calculate the total gross of a movie from
all markets is probably something that few distributors want to make public.
Box-office is an easy (although meaningless) quick assessment for the press.


Another interesting study would be the most profitable films based on it's
relation to the actual production costs. The lower the negative cost, the
higher the profitability if it did well. You'd see some real interesting titles
on that list like "Night of the Living Dead", "Billy Jack" and "Deep Throat". The latter is
a really bad (but notorious) X rated film but what they made vs. what they spent
certainly makes it one of the most successful pictures of all time. In other words if a picture costs 200 million and grosses 400 million, they've only doubled the budget. If a film cost under $100,000 and grossed about 20 million (like that Lovelace Movie), that is a far greater return on the investment.
 

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Clerks is also on that list, as is (ugh) The Blair Witch Project.
 

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Yes those two would be there. I don't like "Blair Witch" either but it
had a very clever marketing campaign and sure showed a great return
on it's investment.
 

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I don`t think any of us expected a Batman film to really go off like that. Wehave Batman Begins to thank for dark Knight`s success. Just the fact they had the guts to do another batman, was risky.

I know initially I said to myself, why??!! But............................
 
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