IS AVATAR PUTTING US ON? or HOW TO CHEAT @ THE BOX OFFICE

We’re back from our break and were asking ourselves what makes Cameron & Co. think they can claim AVATAR is the “highest grossing film” ever? It’s all over the news, just as AVATAR long before anyone had ever seen the film. So is this just another strategy of the decade’s biggest marketing joke or can they back up their claim sufficiently? We decided to do some math.

We’re not good at math, but maybe some of this makes sense. Here’s a summary of what we found in the AVATAR files (but with stats changing daily this might look different soon).

Picture this: so far AVATAR has just cracked TITANIC’s old record of about US$ 1.8 billion worldwide and is indeed the highest grossing film by absolute numbers now. But figures weren’t figures if they weren’t flexible as every student of economics learns during his first semester in a seminar called How to cheat with statistics (sic!). We figured it’s time to put Cameron’s claim to test. It’s time the empire cheats back.

AVATAR obviously whitewashed reality as far as two major benchmarks are concerned. First of all, as far as money goes AVATAR clearly compares apples to oranges, or Na’vi to Indians for that matter: US$ 1.8 billion today are competing with the “second highest grossing film” TITANIC which achieved a box office result of US$ 1.8 billion as well. Eliminating the effects of inflation as well as today’s higher ticket prices of about US$ 7 per ticket vs. US$ 4.5 per ticket average back then means that TITANIC has grossed US$ 2.7 Billion by today’s standards actually. So AVATAR is still about US$ 900 Mio short.

Add to this that AVATAR can rake in big bucks from distribution channels that didn’t exist when TITANIC made mothers-in-law sob like four-year-olds: 3D cinemas, digital cinemas and IMAX. As the price per ticket can be up to double of what a regular ticket costs we’d have to evaluate how many people have watched AVATAR in 3D etc. Unfortunately the AVATAR studio couldn’t be bothered to reveal the figures. Too bad, as this means that AVATAR can achieve a higher gross income with far less people watching it than any other blockbuster so far.

The second issue: would our friends in Hollywood evaluate the success of a movie based on constants instead of variables (like in Europe where the sole benchmark are the tickets sold = how many people have seen the movie) then AVATAR, currently approaching only the 200 Mio mark, doesn’t even make the all-time Top 10 so far (with TITANIC being only No. 3 (!) with 355 Mio people watching it and GONE WITH THE WIND being No.1 with over 500 Million people watching). No. 10 on the list is the TRAPP FAMILY from 1956 with 255 Mio visitors, still ahead of AVATAR with only 200 Mio people sitting through the film (or at least watching a few minutes).

So the final standings don’t look too good for AVATAR: by no means is it the most successful film so far, nor is it the highest grossing film.

Well, never mind the bollocks. We acknowledge that AVATAR is a huge sucksess though and we are sure that Cameron doesn’t give a rat’s ass how we see it or if his calculation is actually more creative than it is realistic. Fair enough. Of course we also wouldn’t mind making billions of bucks, so our thoughts here just reflect our envy and shouldn’t be taken seriously.

But in light of Cameron being a billionaire already since TITANIC we would have thought that all the green could have been used for something more substantial than some blue-colored dudes riding Ferrari-red dragons to awe their squaws. We won’t give up our hopes that now, finally, Cameron is a fat happy cat and will put his money to better use, producing and directing more exciting, relevant and original movies. Like, say, his ex-wife.

Isn’t that ironic: after neglecting decades of feminist achievements, erasing gender equality from history and our memories alike and injecting sexist and racist subtexts into millions of moviegoers with AVATAR, his ex-wife gives him a run for his money (Oscars, pleeeeeeeeaaaase). Payback’s a bitch, isn’t it?!

J.

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