Transformers II is Big, But It's No Mary Poppins

More

With the summer blockbuster movie Transformers II racking up some dizzying revenue to match its dizzying camera-work, we're hearing quite a bit about how it could challenge the box office "records" of past summer behemoths like The Dark Knight. But it's worth remembering that the records it is breaking aren't really records, because they're not adjusted for inflation. Via Slate, I've come across this inflation-adjusted list of the highest grossing movies of all time. Fans of Mary Poppins, rejoice! Just a spoon full of inflation-adjusting makes the Dark Knight go down.


To account for inflation, Box Office Mojo divided the film's earnings by the average ticket price that year to get number of tickets sold. Then it multiplies that number by the average price of a 2009 ticket to give you a sense of its adjusted earnings. You can click through here to see the whole list, but for the purpose of single-tab discussions, I've copied the top 31 films below. The inflation-adjusted gross of the movie is listed to the left of the unadjusted gross.
boxofficereal.pngThis is a pretty incredible list. And I mean that in two ways. Musicals seem to do extremely well -- perhaps too well. Are we willing to live in a world where 101 Dalmatians tops every non-Titanic movie in the last 20 years? What's going on here?

The guy behind the list, Slate writer


Still the list is instructive, and Pincus-Roth's point is right on. Lay readers, he says, should recognize that "ignoring inflation is like comparing the world record for the 100-meter dash to the record for, say, a 3-meter dash." Indeed, the average ticket price in 1939 (23 cents) is 3 percent of the price in 2009 ($7.18).
Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Crazy Tech Idea Could Become Real?

"There could be great intelligence enhancements, like infinite memory."


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier

Video

What Do You Wish You Learned in College?

Ivy League academics reveal their undergrad regrets

Video

Famous Movies, Reimagined

From Apocalypse Now to The Lord of the Rings, this clever video puts a new spin on Hollywood's greatest hits.

Video

What Is a City?

Cities are like nothing else on Earth.

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In