Scarlett O’Hara Keeps ‘Jurassic World’ at Bay Adjusted for inflation, movies of earlier decades trump new millennium’s blockbusters
Old Classic Films Remain Box Office Kings (if the dollar was valued the same).
’Gone With the Wind,’ released in 1939, had domestic ticket sales of $198 million—which equates to $1.64 billion in today’s dollars.
ByErich Schwartzel Wall Street Journal
“Jurassic World” set the box-office record for the best opening weekend of all time, according to figures released Monday. But how would its dinosaurs stack up in an inflation-adjusted box-office race against E.T., Han Solo and Maria von Trapp?
Studio estimates on Sunday had the sequel grossing $204.6 million in North America over the weekend, more than $50 million ahead of forecasts. It turns out the movie performed even better than that, with actual domestic returns coming in Monday at $208.8 million. That $4.2 million difference put it over the $207.4 million opening of Walt Disney Co. ’s “The Avengers” in 2012, giving Comcast Corp. ’s Universal Pictures the first-place trophy of opening-weekend grosses in North America.
But box-office comparisons aren’t an exact science. And when inflation, higher ticket prices and rereleases are taken into account, “Jurassic World” and every other movie released in the last 38 years have nothing on “Gone With the Wind,” “Star Wars” and “The Sound of Music”—the three-highest grossing movies of all time, according to Box Office Mojo, a box-office tracking site. It’s safe to say no producer of “Gone With the Wind” should have ever gone hungry again: The 1939 movie’s $198 million in ticket sales would register as $1.64 billion in today’s dollars. The adjusted take from “Star Wars,” meanwhile, logs in at $1.45 billion, and “The Sound of Music” trills at $1.16 billion.
Most of Box Office Mojo’s calculations for ticket inflation were done by multiplying the estimated admissions of a movie by this year’s average ticket price of $8.12. One thing is clear from Box Office Mojo’s ranking of the 200 top-grossing titles: People aren’t going to the movies like their parents or grandparents did. The most recent movie in the top 10 of price-adjusted grosses is 1997’s “Titanic,” at $1.1 billion.
The number of movie-theater admissions in the U.S. and Canada fell to 1.27 billion last year, its lowest level since 1995, according to the Motion Picture Association of America and National Association of Theatre Owners. That number is expected to improve significantly this year. Between 2010 and 2014, the average annual number of admissions was 1.31 billion, compared to an average of 1.43 billion from 2000 to 2009 and 1.26 billion during the 1990s.
ENLARGE Three movies in wide release this year have already made a showing on the all-time chart, but they are relatively far down on the list: Disney’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (#78 at $444.7 million and counting); Universal’s “Furious 7” (#139 at $350.8 million); and Warner Bros.’ “American Sniper” (#140 at $350 million).
The original “Jurassic Park” (1993) is #16 on the list, with an adjusted gross of $746 million that takes into account a rerelease of the film in 2013. Its opening weekend tally of $47 million feels quaint in a market where $100 million-plus openings are the norm. for highly anticipated titles like “The Hunger Games” or “The Dark Knight Rises.” But its week-to-week grosses never dropped more than 35% during its wide release; plummets of more than 50% in the second weekend are common now. “Jurassic Park” opened in 2,404 theaters; 22 years later, “Jurassic World” played in 4,274.
Thanks to the rebirth of the popular movie franchise and few other new movies in theaters, 'Jurassic World' broke records at the U.S. and global box office this past weekend. Photo: Universal Pictures. Of course, Hollywood studios have found other ways to make up the difference in revenue even as television and the Internet have offered distractions from the multiplex. International returns are now many times that of domestic ticket sales on blockbusters like “Jurassic World”; the movie’s overseas tally for the opening weekend stands at $315.3 million and counting, an international debut that propelled its world-wide opening to $524.1 million. And new whiz-bang add-ons like IMAX Corp. screens, luxury cinemas and 3-D—all costlier options for moviegoers—have brought in surcharges that boost top-line ticket sales. Universal opened “Jurassic World” in pretty much every specialty format available.
Year-over-year increases in ticket prices have shrunk recently, according to data provided by NATO, the theater owners trade group. The average price went up 4 cents to $8.17 in 2014, one of the smallest upticks since the early 1990s. Ticket prices regularly went up 20 cents or more each year throughout the 2000s, with the highest jump on record coming in 2010, when the average increased 39 cents—a leap that can in part be attributed to the popularity of “Avatar” and its success in selling tickets to higher-priced 3-D and IMAX screenings.
So Universal already has a massive hit in “Jurassic World,” but how will history judge it? If its performance continues to mimic the original “Avengers,” its final domestic haul could top $600 million, putting it on the adjusted chart in the neighborhood of the James Bond classic “Thunderball” and original high-school musical “Grease.”
But box-office analysts are already speculating that the movie’s hold on the opening-weekend record may last only until December—when “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” hits theaters.