Box Office Revenue Rises as Attendance Declines

It’s no surprise that movies are getting more expensive with each passing year. According to Box Office Mojo, the average ticket price for 2013 was a whopping $8.13 compared to $7.96 in 2012 and $7.93 in 2011.


The inflation of ticket prices has caused the worldwide box office to reach record setting numbers however in just the past few years: 2013 had two films, Iron Man 3 and Frozen, cross the coveted billion dollar mark worldwide and 2012 had a record-setting four films to pass a billion dollars with The Avengers, and The Dark Knight Rises.

(Skyfall and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey were the other two movies to pass the billion dollar mark, although there late release dates made them cross it in 2013, therefore not shown on this graph.)

Of the top 50 highest grossing films of all time, 44 have been released in the 2000s. The remaining 6 have generated there lifetime gross through a combinations of original theatrical run, special re-releases, or 3D conversion.

But as impressive as these numbers seem, they really don’t add up. Movie attendance is at a steady decline and many people are opting for cheaper viewing choices like in-home early releases and rental services like Redbox and Netflix instead of rushing out to the theaters. Some are even going back to the good ole day’s television thanks to Hulu and on-demand programming.

Economical speaking, if you were to take just a handful of the 44 films listed within the top 50 of all time and adjust them for inflation, the revenue based on tickets sales wouldn’t come close to those of decades past.

Let’s do a quick comparison: last year’s Iron Man 3 currently sits as the fifth highest grossing film of all time with a total box office haul of $1.215 billion at the average ticket price of $8.13. That means about 149 million tickets were brought for that movie. But if we were to take a film like Gone with the Wind, which was released almost 75 years ago in 1939, whose box office haul was only $390 million, and apply in to today’s ticket price, we get a box office revenue of over $3.3 billion. Almost three times as much as Iron Man 3. That translates to over 406 million tickets sold for that film compared to 149 million.


Ticket prices will keep going up and up and there’s really nothing that we can do about it. Movie studios are going to keep releases big budget films one after the other and we, as moviegoers, will keep seeing them. We will stay entertained for years to come and the movie studios will stay rich and happy knowing their breaking records.

I guess it’s a win-win for everyone. But is it really?

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