Avatar vs. Episode IV - Which is REALLY the #1 of All Time?

“I Just Don’t Believe that Avatar Truly Out-Earned Star Wars Episode IV”


(Image Credit:  Channel 24.  Click Image for Original)

You KNOW It’s Been Bugging You!

You’ve probably heard by now that “Avatar” is the #1-grossing movie of all time.  And before that, “Titanic” was #1.

Neither of which, of course, is Star Wars.  Which any child of the 1970’s KNOWS is the TRUE #1.  To suggest otherwise is blasphemy.  Let’s fix this crime.

The “Official” Box Office Ticket Sales Figures Do NOT Count Inflation!

Here’s the official all-time ranking (for the United States only):


US Ticket Sales Top Ten – NOT Inflation Adjusted
(source:  the-numbers.com – click image for raw data)

You need look no further than Episode I outgrossing Episode IV to know something is amiss Smile

Notice how five of the top ten films were all released in the past eight years?  Have movies gotten that much better?  Nope.

But ticket prices have sure gone up haven’t  they?  And hey, since I now have inflation figures from Shadowstats.com all pre-loaded into a model on my desktop (see this post about Moore’s Law and Inflation), it’s time for another quick mashup.

Question to Readers:  Which of these seems most correct?

PowerPivot is amazing.  One copy-paste of movie grosses, a quick relationship to the Years table, a few simple measures, and I have JUSTICE!

Here are three alternate rankings of all-time US movies, courtesy of my PowerPivot mashup.  Which one seems most realistic to you?

Three Inflation-Corrected Movie Rankings

They all share the obviously-correct #1 movie – comforting!  But they differ quite a bit on movies 2-10.

In each of the three alternates, I used a different data set to “level set” the price of tickets to the year the movie was released.  But other than data set, it was the same methodology.  It took me a lot longer to find the data sets than it did to produce these three alternate rankings.

So, which one seems most correct to you?  Let me know, and Thursday I will reveal the data sets behind all three.

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Rob Collie

One of the founding engineers behind Power Pivot during his 14-year career at Microsoft, and creator of the world’s first cloud Power Pivot service, Rob is one of the foremost authorities on self-service business intelligence and next-generation spreadsheet technology. 

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I remember seeing someone tackle this delicate subject in the past, although I am sure it wasn’t with the speed and panache of PowerPivot. As much as I do like seeing Star Wars at the top of the heap, the other site included “Gone With the Wind”, which took the lead away.
    While it isn’t the correct ranking according to my taste, I think we can agree that it is much easier to swallow then Avatar. (Which took a healthy boost form extra expensive 3D pricing.)
    The other site, for your comparison, is http://boxofficemojo.com/alltime/adjusted.htm
    I am not associated with it in any way.

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