Avatar Is Not The No. 1 Movie

by on January 26, 2010

in Entertainment

Yep, you read right. AVATAR is kicking but at the box office right now, slowly creeping up on overtaking Titanic for the No. 1 spot in Box Office numbers.


Total US Gross: $551,741,499
International Gross: $1,288,000,000
Worldwide Gross: $1,839,741,499


Total US Gross $600,788,188
International Gross $1,242,091,767
Worldwide Gross $1,842,879,955

It also has a few weeks to go to threaten the record of Number of Weeks at No. 1. (ET holds that, with 16 weeks.)

Being No. 1 financially, in this era, is awesome, but it doesn’t belie the fact that ticket prices are very different today than they were when Titanic came out.

Box Office Mojo breaks these numbers down for us so we can actually compare apples to apples.

Our first look is average movie ticket price:

  • 2010 average ticket prices are $7.50
  • 1997 average Ticket prices were $4.59.
  • 1939 average Ticket prices were $0.23!

That’s somewhat telling in and of itself. Yet the average 2010 average doesn’t include the higher priced 3D ticket price we’re also paying today to see Avatar.

If we were to break down the estimated number of tickets actually sold, that tells a totally different story. I don’t like ignoring the base numbers that produce the box office returns. But they do help actually appreciate what we are seeing happening with Avatar right now!

When comparing apples to apples (Tickets Sold): Avatar is 26th on a list of movies that is topped by Gone With the Wind as the estimated number of tickets themselves that were sold for a movie.

The Top-10 All Time number of tickets sold looks like this:

RankTitleStudioEst. TicketsYear
1Gone with the WindMGM202,044,6001939
2Star WarsFox178,119,6001977
3The Sound of MusicFox142,415,4001965
4E.T.: The Extra-TerrestrialUni.141,854,3001982
5The Ten CommandmentsPar.131,000,0001956
8Doctor ZhivagoMGM124,135,5001965
9The ExorcistWB110,568,7001973
10Snow White and the Seven DwarfsDis.109,000,0001937

– – –

We’re not taking away from Avatar by any means. And I can’t help but be sure that Avatar will move up on the chart of tickets sold. But right now, the movie that truly captured America’s heart was MGM’s Gone With The Wind.

In 2010 money comparisons, Avatar has dusted the competition from the last few years. That says a lot. Period. But I can’t help but look at how bread makes a buck today, but it cost $0.05 at one point, and that’s not taking away from its importance then, as it is now.


After a few conversations with folks, I’ve discovered that by purely looking at Box Office take is stating that as a business venture, this is how successful a project is / was. The number of tickets sold is in fact a direct association to that when you melt it down to economic standards, inflation, the state of economy and what not. But I’m still swayed by how the actual number of tickets sold compare.

By telling me that a movie that has sold 70+ million seats is more successful, nope, more popular, than a movie that sold 200+ million seats just doesn’t hold water with me. Yes, it’s more successful. But to me, popular is the pure root of how much the movie connected with the movie going audience.

I can’t feel in my heart that a movie that has had 70% less viewers than another is more popular. Does that make sense?

Now if you’re in the marketing department of Fox, you definitely want it pitched that Avatar is breaking records. That’s what helps get the people in the door. The idea that it’s breaking records, hence it must be that good. (I’m not saying it’s not… ) Wouldn’t you want to go see a “Man Eating Chicken?” Sure… until you realize it’s just a man, whose eating chicken. (Thanks John!)

But we’ll keep an eye on this as it develops and keep you apprised!


Selected items on Amazon

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Bruce Simmons July 9, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Chaz, I went back and looked at my source link for the numbers and I missed a little feature that no one seemed to let me in on… so THANKS. I need to revisit this subject and do this right! I’ll be doing that soon! -Bruce

Chaz July 8, 2010 at 10:28 pm

One thing I really don’t get.
Gone With the Wind grossed $198,676,459. Average ticket price was $0.23.

You estimate tickets sold for Gone With the Wind at ~$202M. The math isn’t there.

$198M / $0.23 is about 860M tickets sold…

Bruce Simmons (BruSimm) January 26, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Huh? Wisdom beyond years!

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