10 biggest movies of all time based on people purchasing tickets

StephenT

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People always complain, and rightly so, that top 10 lists based on gross are misleading. I found this list in The Washington Times today. It's based on number of tickets purchased. The source is "The Top 10 of Everything." If it's accurate, I think it should be the definitive list. It's interesting and at times surprising. What do others think?
These are the 10 biggest movies of all time at the U.S. box office, measured in terms of people purchasing tickets.
1. "Gone With the Wind" -- 208 million
2. "Star Wars" -- 199 million
3. "The Sound of Music" -- 171 million
4. "E.T.: The Extraterrestrial" -- 152 million
5. "The Ten Commandments" -- 133 million
6. "The Jungle Book" -- 126 million
7. "Titanic" -- 124 million
8. "Jaws" -- 123.3 million
9. "Doctor Zhivago" -- 122.7 million
10. "101 Dalmatians" -- 120 million
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Stephen
 

Alex Spindler

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Here's top 100. This is based on BoxOffice Mojo's adjusted grosses, which should accomplish the same thing. They've adjusted everything to 2001's $5.60 average ticket price. There are some differences, so who's to say which is right. But it does give some food for thought. It's obvious that the Lucas and Spielberg Juggernaut has brought in a lot of people.
1. Gone With the Wind
2. Star Wars
3. The Sound of Music
4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
5. The Ten Commandments
6. Jaws
7. Titanic
8. Doctor Zhivago
9. The Jungle Book
10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
11. Ben-Hur
12. 101 Dalmatians
13. The Exorcist
14. The Empire Strikes Back
15. Return of the Jedi
16. The Sting
17. Raiders of the Lost Ark
18. Jurassic Park
19. The Graduate
20. The Phantom Menace
21. Fantasia
22. The Godfather
23. Forrest Gump
24. Mary Poppins
25. Grease
26. The Lion King
27. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
28. Sleeping Beauty
29. Ghostbusters
30. Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid
31. Bambi
32. Independence Day
33. Love Story
34. Beverly Hills Cop
35. Home Alone
36. Pinocchio
37. Cleopatra
38. Airport
39. American Graffiti
40. The Robe
41. Around the World in 80 Days
42. Blazing Saddles
43. Batman
44. The Bells of St. Mary's
45. The Towering Inferno
46. National Lampoon's Animal House
47. The Greatest Show on Earth
48. My Fair Lady
49. Let's Make Love
50. Back to the Future
51. Superman
52. Smokey and the Bandit
53. THE SIXTH SENSE
54. Tootsie
55. West Side Story
56. Lady and the Tramp
57. Twister
58. Rocky
59. The Best Years of Our Lives
60. The Poseidon Adventure
61. Men in Black
62. The Bridge Over the River Kwai
63. Its' a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
64. Swiss Family Robinson
65. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
66. MASH
67. Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom
68. Mrs. Doubtfire
69. Aladdin
70. Ghost
71. Duel in the Sun
72. House of Wax
73. Rear Window
74. The Lost World: Jurassic Park
75. Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade
76. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
77. HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS
78. Sergeant York
79. TOY STORY 2
80. Top Gun
81. Crocodile Dundee
82. Saving Private Ryan
83. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
84. Young Frankenstein
85. Peter Pan
86. Gremlins
87. Every Which Way But Loose
88. Funny Girl
89. The Fugitive
90. The Caine Mutiny
91. Toy Story
92. Jaws 2
93. 2001: A Space Odyssey
94. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
95. Dances With Wolves
96. Kramer vs. Kramer
97. Armageddon
98. Three Men and a Baby
99. Psycho
100. CAST AWAY
[Edited last by Alex Spindler on October 28, 2001 at 02:05 PM]
 

Seth Paxton

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Keep in mind that children's tickets are cheaper, which is why a straight "adjusted gross" doesn't quite equal number of tickets sold.
Let's not even consider cases like TPM, where some theaters avoiding paying Lucas his harsher percentage by ticketing people for other films officially. Not sure what kind of effects things like that have on these lists and I'm sure we will never really know.
 

RobertR

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Thanks for the list, Stephen and Alex! MUCH more interesting and useful than the revenue numbers bandied about today, which don't take into account ticket price inflation.
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[Edited last by RobertR on October 28, 2001 at 04:33 PM]
 

David Ren

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Were there even 200 million people in the USA when Gone with the Wind came out?
David Ren
 

Chad R

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It's also interesting when you consider things like number of theaters. Nowadays it's rather simple and convenient to find a theater relatively close to where you live.
However in 1939 when 'Gone with the Wind' was released it wasn't so easy. All of those people who saw that film had to make a genuine effort to get to a theater.
They also didn't have the matinee structure quite like they do today (matinees were ususally limited to Saturday) which meant that it was mostly just one showing a day at night!
My grandma told me the story of how she and my grandpa had to plan a whole day of it. Drive from their small far town into Cincinatti to see the showing Saturday night, stand in line for hours to buy tickets(and this was still the depression, wasn't it?) just to see it.
That's what I call and event picture.
 

Alex Spindler

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Don't forget that they are counting reissues as well. It would be interesting if the "new classics" will get reissues in the future. I would love for films like Pulp Fiction, Shawshank Redemption, and the Silence of the Lambs to get a rerelease in theaters.
But that does beg the question. With the caliber of home theaters available at this time, along with the upcoming availabilty of widescreen digital displays, do you think newer old movies will have a market for reissue? Or do you think the home theater will be enough?
I wonder how well the showings of Holy Grail has done in light of the special edition release on DVD.
 

Dave Barth

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While the population factor is certainly much less than the inflation factor, don't forget that what you'd really want is per capita ticket sales, if you wanted an idea of the fraction of people who went to a certain movie.
 

RobertR

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I think if you used the per capita standard, Dave, then that makes Gone With the Wind even more of a colossal hit, by far the most popular movie ever.
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MickeS

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Nowadays it's rather simple and convenient to find a theater relatively close to where you live.
However in 1939 when 'Gone with the Wind' was released it wasn't so easy. All of those people who saw that film had to make a genuine effort to get to a theater.
Is that really true? Judging by old pictures and film footage, it seemed like there were almost more theaters back then than there are today. TV wasn't a comptetor either, so it was either cinema, stage productions or radio if you wanted entertainment.
Also remember that movies didn't stay in theaters for 5 months and then disappear, they were literally in theaters for years in some cases. I would imagine that even though the population was less, there were more chances for people to see "Gone with the wind" theatrically, than there were for people today to see "The Phantom Menace" theatrically.
Of course, to REALLY find out which movie is the most popular today, we will have to include numbers from TV, VHS and DVD... I bet we'll all be shocked to find out that "Weekend at Bernie's" and "Just one of the guys" will be in the top 5!

/Mike
 
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I think there's something wrong with that top 100 list. It puts "West Side Story" at #55. But I myself saw it 130 million times which would put it in the top 10... Oh wait. That's right, when it went citywide from it's exclusive engagement I only paid once each morning when I went in. Damn, if I'd known 40 years later it would make a difference I would have gone out and come back in and paid for each viewing.
OK I'll concede the list is probably accurate, but for the record 30 million of those paid admissions for "Gone With The Wind" were me.
 

TheoGB

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Hmm. Does that make Star Wars better than Gone With The Wind as it's way younger and hasn't been re-released nearly as often, and there was TV to contend with in those days?
Actually going by that I'd guess that Titanic may be the clear winner being the youngest and never (to my knowledge) ever having been re-released.
Now I want to see a comparison based on sales for the initial release only...

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Chad R

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Is that really true? Judging by old pictures and film footage, it seemed like there were almost more theaters back then than there are today.
Are you thinking of footage of major cities like New York? Maybe. But still doubtful. In the more rural parts of America it was true. (At least based on the info my Grandmother fed me) I suppose it you lived in a major metropolitan area it was easier.
But still it was no where as simple as it is today. Screen counts are just tremendously high. Multiplexes didn't come about in force until the 70's. In Orlando I have almost 30 choices of multiplex screens (an average of 8 screens per complex) to choose from in just under a 30 minute drive. Back in 1939 (or actually more like 1940 when GWTW played it's release since it premiered December 1939) there was probably one theater in Orlando, with one screen, and one showing a night.
It is incredibly more convenient to see something like Phantom Menace than it was. Also, movie going was much more of an event than it is today.
 

Greg_M

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Ticket sales is the best way to measure how a film did. Inflation aside, big event film like "Gone With the Wind" cost more to see in their opening engagement (before they went to popular prices). A film opening in the 60's could cost $5.00 -$6.00 and run for a year before opening wide for $2.00 a ticket.
"Gone With The Wind" was re-released many times so the inflation factor isn't enough since each re-release had a different ticket price.
Children's film most likely had matinee prices and played on a double bill (many Disney films did this) And one adult may have accompanied two or more children(3+ tickets), where as only two adults (2 tickets) would attend a PG or R rated film
 

Carlo Medina

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For Gone with the Wind, don't forget to factor in repeat viewings and re-releases. That's why there were only 130 million people in the U.S. and 200 million tickets sold.
 

Ken_McAlinden

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I wonder how well the showings of Holy Grail has done in light of the special edition release on DVD.
Columbia has done this with Funny Girl as well. In fact, in a lot of cities (Detroit being one of them) the DVD release of Funny Girl actually pre-dates the theatrical re-release.
Regards,
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Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA
 

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