Jan 28, 2010

Avatar Passes Thunderball At All-Time Box Office

People are very quick to hail James Cameron's Avatar as the biggest movie of all time thanks to its astounding worldwide gross of $1.86 billion.  Domestically, it currently stands at Number 2 with $558 million so far, and is certain to beat Titanic's $600 million very soon.  But those numbers are just dollars, and as most movie buffs know (and the media is just catching on to), they don't begin to reflect what's truly "the biggest movie of all time" in terms of eyeballs.  People just don't flock to the movies anymore in the numbers they did in the Thirties, Sixties or even Eighties.  But ticket prices have shot up (more than 50% since 1997 alone, when Titanic opened the same day as Tomorrow Never Dies, making the latter the only Bond movie of the Brosnan or Craig era not to hit the Number 1 spot at the Box Office*) and inflation has made the 1965 dollar unrecognizable.  So while Avatar may have made more cash than Star Wars or E.T. in 2010 dollars, it hasn't been seen by nearly as many people.  Box Office Mojo keeps score of the highest grossing movies of all time with their grosses adjusted for inflation, and the numbers are quite different.  It will come as no surprise to Bond fans to learn that Goldfinger and Thunderball both crack the Top 50 on this list.  While Daniel Craig's Bond movies may be the "biggest Bonds ever" in terms of the same dollars that give Avatar the crown, they don't begin to duplicate the utter phenomenon of Bondmania that swept the nation and the world in the mid-Sixties.  While Moore, Brosnan and Craig all set records in their eras, none of their films make the Top 100 list once adjusted for inflation.

Anyway, Avatar has just surpassed Thunderball on that list, knocking the biggest Bond ever down a notch to Number 27 with $558,008,000.  (Yes, that means that Avatar is really only the twenty-sixth biggest movie of all-time, not the biggest.  That undisputed honor belongs to Gone With the Wind, and likely always will, with only the original Star Wars coming close to it for Number 2.)  But Thunderball still remains ahead of such gargantuan modern-day blockbusters as The Dark Knight and Spider-man, which isn't too shabby! Goldfinger clocks in at Number 41, ahead of both the Spider-man sequels.  And both of these Connery come in well ahead of all the Lord of the Rings movies, all the Harry Potter movies and all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  It's just good to put things in perspective sometimes, and good for Bond fans (while certainly not denying the character's undying popularity with contemporary audiences) to reflect on what an unstoppable juggernaut the franchise was at its truly dizzying peak.

*Casino Royale didn't open at Number 1 either, thanks to stiff competition from Happy Feet, but it did manage to beat out Happy Feet for the Number 1 spot over the Thanksgiving weekend in 2006.  Tomorrow Never Dies, while it was a big hit and did very respectable numbers, never managed that feat with Titanic.

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