Wednesday, January 27, 2010

You're the Tops...

Well, it's been confirmed. Avatar is now the number one top-grossing film of all time, having taken in more bucks than Cameron's previous mega-hit, Titanic. Avatar's world-wide gross is $1.859 billion, while Titanic's stands at $1.843 billion. That's more money than the debt of some nations on this planet. I'm not sure a movie should be able to make that much money without having to drop some of those profits into health care or poverty or anti-crime efforts or something. Seriously. Movie studios and James Cameron shouldn't just be able to keep all that shit, should they? A billion dollars. A billion. It kind of staggers the mind, doesn't it?

Before anyone gets all weepy (again) for their favourite boat-sinking epic, it's still the top-grossing movie in America, where it grossed $600.8 million to Avatar's $554.9. And Titanic did it in 1997 dollars. Hollar.

But some pundits are talking about what this really means when you simply compare dollar amounts. Take Gone With the Wind. In terms of dollar amount, it was surpassed as the top grosser a long-ass time ago. But adjusted for inflation? No one comes close. Level the playing field in terms of inflation, and Avatar goes waaaaaaaaaaaaay down on the list of domestic gross. Like 26th. The number one domestic champ? Gone With the Wind, whose adjusted gross is $1,507,252,900. That's right, it made the equivalent of $1.5 billion in 1939.

1939. They had the Great Depression and the start of WWII to worry about, so why pretty much everyone in the U.S. decided to go see a movie about a racist spoiled sociopath who chooses to fall in love with an effeminate wussinstead of the sexiest man in the south is beyond me. But everyone did. Apparently two or three times. This movie ran in theatres for years. That's not a typo. Years. So, when we talk about sheer number of tickets sold, Avatar is not even close to this juggernaut. When we talk about blockbusters, does anything else come close?
Well, Star Wars might. It brings up another point I'd like to make. Cost vs. Gross. See, Star Wars cost around $12 million dollars to make, and it grossed $435 million bucks. On the adjusted list, it's at number two, by the way. When studio execs are looking at successes, the fact that your film cost little and grossed huge is a big deal. But it can't cost too little, of course, otherwise the top directors would all be former low-budget horror directors. Horror is genre king of movies costing eight dollars to make and grossing millions. Case in point, Paranormal Activity. But studio execs seem to still regard horror as the basement. A profitable basement, but still. But does having a wide profit margin mean anything?

Avatar is reportedly the most expensive film ever made, with a budget rumoured to be north of $300 million. Holy. Shit. Titanic held the previous record with a budget somewhere around $200 million. Those kind of budgets should be the exception, not the rule. yeah, Cameron can't seem to make a cheap movie, unless you count those undersea documentaries he's obsessed with. As he only makes a movie once every decade or so, I guess it's okay that he spends a lot, but I wouldn't want Hollywood to make a habit. More money rarely equals a great final result, and it means a much larger risk.

So, what do you think? Is Avatar truly the tops? Or is it just the latest member of an exclusive club?

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