Disney has been touting the fact that Toy Story 3 passed the $1 billion mark at the box office this weekend. Is it that big of a deal?
Well, looking in absolute dollar terms, yes. Sort of.
The film is the first animated film to break the threshold and only the seventh overall. And, with the success of Alice in Wonderland earlier this year, Disney has become the first studio to release two billion-dollar grossers in a year. Hooray for exorbitant 3-D ticket prices!
However, if you were looking at this information as proof that Disney and 3-D movies are more popular than ever, you may need to reconsider your hypothesis. As the New York Times snarked this spring:
“When you don’t adjust statistics for inflation, you end up with a lot of meaningless comparisons: Almost everything is more expensive than it’s ever been! People are earning vastly more than they ever have! The most successful movies ever are being made right now!”
So, in the interest of science, NewsFeed is going to do what we do whenever some studio trumpets a new box-office milestone: look at box office figures adjusted for inflation. Using data from Box Office Mojo and making calculations from the CPI Inflation Calculator, we came up with a rough estimate of how many other films grossed the equivalent of $1 billion in the dollars of their own time. The answer is: a lot!
Films That Have Grossed A Billion Dollars If We Take Inflation Into Account (In Rough Order Of Popularity)
1. Gone with the Wind
2. Star Wars
4. The Sound of Music
7. The Exorcist
8. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
9. The Empire Strikes Back
10. Jurassic Park
11. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
12. Return of the Jedi
13. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
14. The Phantom Menace
15. The Lion King
16. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
17. Independence Day
18. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
19. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
20. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
21. The Ten Commandments
22. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
23. Alice in Wonderland
24. Toy Story 3
25. Finding Nemo
26. The Dark Knight
Other, older films such as Doctor Zhivago, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Ben-Hur made close to the equivalent of $1 billion domestic in their times, but we couldn’t find worldwide data to verify that they went over the top. However, it’s safe to say that they probably broke a billion too.
This isn’t a slight against Toy Story 3, a film that NewsFeed almost unanimously loved. It is, however, a slight on the practice of reporting new box office milestones without mentioning inflation, because that is weaksauce.