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The movie industry focuses on sheer box office grosses far more than tickets sold for a very simple reason-- thanks to inflation and rising ticket prices, you can always claim your films are more successful than those from the year before. It turns movie history into a constantly upward-moving graph, and belies what all of us know when we choose to stay home with Netflix on a Friday night: way, way fewer people are going to the movies now than they used to.
And it's not just that the record numbers that saw Gone With the Wind in theaters trounce everyone who saw the ostensible biggest movie of all time, Avatar. The difference is stark even looking just 23 years ago. Movies.com noticed, among the scores of data over at Box Office Mojo, that Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises is on track to sell significantly fewer tickets than Tim Burton's original Batman. Like, 10 million fewer.
They come to that number with some simple math, comparing the average movie ticket price of the time-- $3.97 in 1989 and $8.02 today-- to the amount taken in. Batman sold an estimated 62.9 million tickets when it was released, while The Dark Knight Rises has sold only 50.6 million so far. It can make up that difference as it continues to play in theaters, sure, but it can't come close to catching up. And as Movies.com points out, that puts both of them spectacularly behind the summer's big champion, The Avengers, which sold 76 million tickets. Wow.
Everyone knew that The Dark Knight Rises was underperforming compared to The Dark Knight, but these numbers really drive home what a difference there is between financial success and actual public approval. You can fiddle around on Box Office Mojo and make your own comparisons, and report back any other fascinating discoveries in the comments.