Data visualizer extraordinaire Randal S. Olson has taken all the US domestic ticket sales (adjusted for 2014 dollars) from all movies since 1982 and charted them against each other to find out what the “booms” and “busts” really were. His thinking was that since production costs for blockbuster movies have bloated incredibly in the last few years, subtracting those production costs from the total ticket sales would give us a better idea of the real stand-outs.
Here’s what Olson found after doing just that:
Only three films from the last decade made it into the top 25 — The Passion of the Christ, Avatar, and The Hunger Games. “Unsurprisingly,” Olson notes, “[The Hunger Games] has had a sequel every year since it was released.”
What about the underdogs? That is to say, which films made the most with the least production money? Oddly enough, almost all of them come from the last decade, with Paranormal Activity making an incredible 3,592 times what it was made for:
Now for the busts. Using the same formula (adjusted ticket sales – production costs), which films flopped?
Again, modern films with gigantic production budgets dominate the list. And then there’s Waterworld. Oh, Waterworld.
Lastly, Olson looked at the disasters — the films you’ve probably never heard of because the ratio of sales to production costs was so so bad:
Yes, the 2.36 million dollar movie Zyzzyx Road made 35 dollars. Total. And remember that cult classics like The Boondock Saints are called “cult classics” for a reason.
The trends that Olson found begs the question: Do gigantic budgets actually mean better ticket sales? Well, Olson tackled that question too, but you’ll have to head over to his blog to find out.
Special thank to Randal S. Olson for permission to reproduce his nerdy work here.