Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Gimmicky Truth of 3-D

I feel somewhat victorious as a Star Wars fan right now. Have you ever wondered why people always judge a movies' success by how much money it has grossed and not by, say, a better method, such as how many tickets were actually sold? If you're gonna make the statement that a film is the biggest of all-time, you'd better have the stats to back it up, but in the case of James Cameron's Avatar, that's not entirely true.

I'm pretty sure all have heard by now that Avatar is officially the highest grossing film of all-time worldwide. Now, I enjoyed Avatar and I am happy to see it topping the charts the way in which it has, and no matter how you spin it, it still is a behemoth at the box office being the biggest film to hit theaters since Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace did in 1999. I'm mainly here talking about an alternative to reading film's grosses and looking more in terms of actual attendance, or in a better phrase, ticket sales.

The Hollywood Reporter and Boxofficemojo did just that, looking at overall attendance to come up with the real, definitive list of the greatest films of all-time. Here's the top 26 for anyone wanting to know how it turned out:

1 "Gone With the Wind" (1939) 202,044,600
2 "Star Wars" (1977) 178,119,600
3 "The Sound of Music" (1965) 142,415,400
4 "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982) 141,854,300
5 "The Ten Commandments" (1956) 131,000,000
6 "Titanic" (1997) 128,345,900
7 "Jaws" (1975) 128,078,800
8 "Doctor Zhivago" (1965) 124,135,500
9 "The Exorcist" (1973) 110,568,700
10 "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937) 109,000,000
11 "101 Dalmatians" (1961) 99,917,300
12 "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) 98,180,600
13 "Ben-Hur" (1959) 98,000,000
14 "Return of the Jedi" (1983) 94,059,400
15 "The Sting" (1973) 89,142,900
16 "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981) 88,141,900
17 "Jurassic Park" (1993) 86,205,800
18 "The Graduate" (1967) 85,571,400
19 "Star Wars: Episode I" (1999) 84,825,800
20 "Fantasia" (1941) 83,043,500
21 "The Godfather" (1972) 78,922,600
22 "Forrest Gump" (1994) 78,545,600
23 "Mary Poppins" (1964) 78,181,800
24 "The Lion King" (1994) 77,231,800
25 "Grease" (1978) 76,921,800
26 "Avatar" (2009) 74,823,00

So Avatar is only 26, where as 4 out of my 5 favorite films of all-time are magnificently in the top 14, including all of the original Star Wars trilogy, but I digress. Though I find these stats intriguing when, if going by money, Avatar is the biggest film of all-time. It all has to do with the price of a ticket.

3-D movie tickets cost, in some circumstances as much as $14-16, where as 2-D movie tickets cost on average about $9-11. Would Avatar be as big as it has been if it weren't a 3-D movie? I think it would have been big, I mean obviously it has sold a fair few tickets, but it would have not passed Titanic in terms of box office if the film only played in 2-D. I just wonder what makes 3-D so darn expensive to charge an average of $5 more per ticket?

In all honesty, I think it's a scam, and this is why the studios are trying so hard to push 3-D down audiences throats, and right now they're succeeding. They've hypnotized audiences into thinking that 3-D is the only "legitimate" way to see a movie and they have crafted this smokescreen to inflate their box office numbers and ultimately make billions more than they used to. It's good business, but it's bad for art. I would actually venture to say that majority of the 25 films above Avatar on the most attended films of all-time list are for the most part fascinating works of cinematic art.

Unfortunately, I think this 3-D revolution is here to stay. As long as people are fooled by the studios and shell out the extra five bucks to see a film in 3-D, the studios are gonna continue to pump 'em on out, which means, expect to see more and more movies, like Avatar, breaking box office records when at the end of the day the only reason it is really breaking those records is because of the gimmick of 3-D.


  1. Well said! Though I don't think it's quite a scam--they do have to print those crappy glasses!! To add to your story though, did you know that when studios report earnings and make their big grand statements like, "this is the most money we've made on a film since 1999" they're usually not adjusting it to inflation? Also, when it comes to opening weekends, it's only been in the last ten years that we've started doing Thursday midnight screenings, so when studios say, "THIS IS THE BIGGEST OPENING WEEKEND EVER!" ...Yeah, you guessed it, "Star Wars" probably beat it.