Inflation Adjusted vs Unadjusted

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Chris Farmer, Aug 27, 2002.

  1. Chris Farmer

    Chris Farmer Screenwriter

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    I was wondering if any of oyu all might know this. Why is it, when comparing revenues made by movies, inflation is always left out of the equation? while titanic may have made a ton of money, the take of Gone With the Wind, from an era when movie tickets were under 15¢, seems far more impressive ot me. In fact, if I remember, GWtW's domestic take adjusts to over 1 billion dollars. So, why are those numbers so rarely used, and just stick with the unadjusted? Sure it's easier, but to really have a fair comparison, I would think that the rising ticket prices would need to be accounted for somehow.
     
  2. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    A little bit of this was discussed in this thread not too long ago.
    ~Edwin
     
  3. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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  4. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

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  5. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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  6. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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  7. Gabe D

    Gabe D Cinematographer

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    Don't forget that TV makes a huge difference. If you wanted to see Gone With the Wind in 1939 you had no choice but to buy a ticket. If you wanted to see Titanic in 1997 you could buy a ticket. Or wait for VHS. Or wait for HBO. Or wait for network TV. Or wait and see if this DVD thing took off. You had many choices. (Hell, I'm sure there's somebody right now who's waiting to see it in HDTV, or a Special Edition DVD.) So, it's a whole different ballgame. You can't really compare the popularity of movies from different eras based on the box office. It's apples and oranges. All we can really know is that Gone With the Wind was a big hit Apple, and Titanic was a big hit Orange.
     
  8. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

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    Ahhh, my butts-in-seats comments, which Seth cruelly discards [​IMG]
    In seriousness, butt-in-seats did matter for my point, which was merely popularity. That is itself affected by many more considerations, so we are looking at a complex issue if that is the choice. Television and home video did probably have a greater impact than any other factor, although at different times. When GWTW came out, it was at the theater at a time when there WAS no TV...that must have an impact[​IMG]
    Butts in seats...
    Chuck :p)
     
  9. Chad R

    Chad R Cinematographer

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    Box Office performance is a marketing gimmick, that's why every movie this summer boasted some sort of 'record breaking weekend.' Biggest Live action June opener. Biggest non-animated, non-sequel third week in July opener.

    You could argue their value all day; accounting for inflation, just count actual tickets sold, or you could even micormanage it and compare population percentages that saw 'Gone With the Wind' compared to 'Titanic.'

    In the end, does how well a movie did have any value compared to how well an individual liked it? Does the fact that the Mona Lisa is so accessible to the public make it a greater work of art than a privately owned Picasso?
     
  10. David Rogers

    David Rogers Supporting Actor

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    Studios have no interest in comparing films historically ... the purpose of releasing notes that say things like "highest grossing film in history" where their math is un-adjusted for inflation is simply for publicity and to make people go "wow!".

    This works in politics too, by the way. Every single tax increase is the "largest in history" because they measure it in gross tax revenue increased and it almost always is (because of inflation and economic expansion), so they say that. They will *NEVER* run the numbers relative to the whole and report it that way, because it's not a good story for the lay-news-user that way.
     
  11. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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    What should be the only determining factor in a movie's popularity is the number of tickets sold. Period.
    Studios get different amounts of revenue (although not much) from different theaters, and these numbers are always skewed when movies go into second run which actually can go against the statistics for the popularity of a film when only dollars are considered. If a theater charges $10 for first run and sells 10,000 tickets, that's $100,000. But if it goes second-run and a theater charges $5 but sells 20,000 tickets, that's still $100,000 even though the "butts-in-seats" doubled.
    Showing the box office in current dollars is nothing more than a flashy marketing gimmick and has no real value. The number of people who have paid to see the movie should be a much more coherent and believable number to use ... but where's the "wow" in that? [​IMG]
     
  12. Ken Chan

    Ken Chan Producer

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  13. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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  14. Ken Chan

    Ken Chan Producer

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    Again, complaining about Titanic -- the crux of many of these arguments [​IMG] -- is counter-productive, because no matter how you slice it, it is clearly a member of the top class of popular films, which also includes GwtW. No movie in the almost five years since has done anywhere close to that kind of business.
    You want to complain about something, how about the fact that they're making a big deal about how the latest Austin Powers made more than the first two (first weekend and total), and how that bodes well for another sequel. Aside from three or four really funny bits, that movie was horrible.
    //Ken
     
  15. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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    I'm not saying otherwise. I'm simply saying that I think the movie-going public is smart enough to not judge the quality of a movie based on how much it makes at the box office, and that's what Hollywood is trying to do.
     
  16. Chris Farmer

    Chris Farmer Screenwriter

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    Well, some of that makes sense. Differing populations, uneven inflation, etc. The main thing that prompted me to ask was the ridiculous opening day grosses this past nine months or so (starting with Harry Potter). Used to be opening over $60 million was impressive, and the handful that opened over $70 were just incredible. Then we had HP smash that record, only to have it beaten by over 20% more by Spidey. Phantom Menace opened to 85, Signs exceeded 60, MIIB was somewhere in the 70s, etc. After seeing half a dozen or so movies, ALL of which would have set the record independently, have such huge takes in ONE summer, I was just wondering just hwo much less those numbers start to mean. When Harry nearly broke $100 million opening, it was impressive. When Spidey DID, it was even more so. By the time Phantom rolled around, it was passe.
     
  17. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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  18. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    But let me add that I do agree there are other factors such as home video and population increases. Most casual analysts see many of these things as offsets. More people are available to go today, better theaters, big sounds and so on. Yet home video is bigger than ever too, which counters the population increase.
    Do all these things balance out? Very hard to say. I'd be interested in seeing the study though. Maybe someone could get that financed and get their Ph.D. in business with it. [​IMG]
     
  19. andrew markworthy

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    Adjusting figures for inflation is a notoriously difficult thing to do. One of the standard methods is to make an index from the prices of a selection of staple household goods. This seems logical and as a rule of thumb it is a fair enough measure, but it is flawed for several reasons. One is that as people in general get affluent, so the proportion of total household income which gets spent on staple goods diminishes. Another is that the staple goods may get relatively cheaper because of improved production, cheaper imports, etc. The end product is that adjusting for inflation can be skewed, and comparing ticket costs in this way is not v. accurate.

    It might be said that a better way of looking at things would be to look at total ticket sales, ignoring cost altogether. However, this assumes that movies in different time periods had the same competition. It should be remembered that a lot of people went to the cinema in the 1930s-50s because of lack of other forms of entertainment, or because they lived in lodgings. or simply to save on heating bills (if you were out, you didn't have to heat your room). Thus, figures for some films of this era may be exaggerated because people went to see these movies simply because that was what was showing at their local cinema - i.e. it might just as well have been any other movie. Today, arguably almost all movies are attended because the audience want to see that movie.

    Perhaps the best solution would be to apply the Big Mac Index. This is a really neat measure devised a few years ago by economists. Basically, a very reliable guide to the spending power of a worker in different countries can be gauged by measuring how many minutes he or she has to work to buy a Bic Mac in the country in which they live. By this assumption, it might be possible to measure across contries and across times the relative spending on movie tickets using this index. The only snag of course is that Big Macs weren't around in the 1930s (when did the Golden Arches become a common sight in the USA? - the UK wasn't saturated until the mid-80s, if I recall correctly).
     

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