Captain America unseated Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 this weekend, raking in 65.8 $mi.
Granted, Harry Potter grossed a whopping 169 $mi, record-breaking first week, so you can’t feel too bad for it. Except for the fact that that’s a “nominal” record, but not a real one.
“What’s the difference?” you may ask. Nominal implies that the numbers are measured in their own right, which is to say that they are not being compared on equal conditions. This is important because lots of factors change from year to year, let alone across a couple of years.
First off, ticket-price creep; box office prices have steadily risen since their “slashing” in the heyday of the economic slump, meaning that it takes less tickets sold at the current price to equal the revenue generated at the previous price.
Second, the massive surge of 3D movies and their subsequent raised ticket prices; ultimately the same effect as before gets taken into account.
Third, there is inflation: the general tendency of prices to rise over time. Essentially, there is no real growth (i.e. there is nothing extra being produced) but prices rise anyway, meaning that a dollar today buys less than a dollar yesterday. This is essentially a furthering of point 1 yet again; inflation means that your hard-earned dollars are now worth less, relative to before so 169 $mi today wouldn’t buy as much as 169 $mi a year ago. More importantly 169 $mi today doesn’t buy as much as 158 $mi did in 2007. That’s right, in inflation-adjusted terms, Spider-Man 3’s opening weekend was bigger than HPDHP2.
Interestingly enough, in ticket-inflation-adjusted terms (dealing with issue 1), Star Wars claims 4 of the top 10 total box office values. (I am unsure, but would tend to believe that the numbers for IV, V and VI include the re-releases of the movies.)
It is interesting to think that in relative terms, modern movies aren’t cleaning up like the news would have us believe. That said, this is probably a boring post for most non-economists out there and yet another glimpse at what makes it the “dismal science.”