Friday, February 24, 2012

Read it and weep! The Phantom Menace is about to out-gross The Dark Knight! Or: What the onslaught on 3D reissues means for the all-time grossers list.

With just $1 million separating the two films, today or tomorrow is likely the day when one of the more reviled films in geek-ville, Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace, will surpass one of the more openly worshipped geek film in recent years, The Dark Knight, at the global box office.  As of Wednesday, Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace crossed $1 billion, becoming the eleventh film to do so and the first Star Wars film to cross said benchmark.  Obviously there is inflation and 3D price-bumps to figure, but just remember that The Phantom Menace's adjusted-for-inflation grosses from 1999 would equal about $664 million in domestic grosses alone (it earned $431 million in the summer of 1999, the second-largest grossing first-run film behind Titanic at that point).  And don't forget that a number of major fantasy films, chiefly the first three Star Wars films, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, have had several theatrical releases since their initial respective debuts.  In the days before VHS became mainstream, it was not uncommon for popular films to show up repeatedly at a theater near you.  With the apparent consumer appeal of 3D-converted re-releases, we are seeing a return to what may be a revolving door atop the list of all-time box office champions.

One immediate effect of these 3D-converted releases is the fact that a number of benchmarks will be arbitrarily altered as a result of these successful re-releases.  If Titanic earns $161 million in the US during its 3D-release this April, it will swap places with Avatar (now at $760 million) at the top of the domestic box office chart. We all witnesses how The Lion King added $166 million to its international coffers to leapfrog several places up the domestic and worldwide list, ending as the biggest-grossing cartoon of all-time on both fronts.  Should this September's 3D release of Finding Nemo proved as popular (if not more-so), we could again see another rearranging of the list for top-grossing cartoons.  Hell, if Warner Bros cares (they probably don't), they may try to do some kind of Dark Knight re-release in early July to get fans pumped for the third installment, which may allow the film to make up whatever ground its lost to the Star Wars prequel.

What if Warner Bros. decides to invest in 3D-converted versions of Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series, and/or The Matrix trilogy?  Now that Lionsgate has aquirred Summit Entertainment, there surely will be pressure to try to find a way to further profit on the Twilight Saga, which have all been released in 2D.  What if Dreamworks crosses its fingers and hopes that Shrek and especially Shrek 2 (which is currently at $919 million) still hold enough cachet to merit 3D-conversions and subsequent theatrical releases, or Fox doing the same for the (insanely popular overseas) Ice Age series?  The possibilities of an ever-revolving 'top-grossing films' list is endless.  What it means is that the somewhat concrete list of 'the highest grossing films of all time' may become a highly malleable list of recent releases alongside whatever massively popular older title has most recently been re-released in 3D.  Heck, should IMAX ever get enough screens to make a similar impact, they too would become a factor.  So I guess the question now is merely to ask you... what older films would you pay to see on the big screen, either in 3D or IMAX 2D or IMAX 3D?  Sound off below.

Scott Mendelson  


Nicholas said...


Bill said...

When I was a kid "Gone with the Wind" was released in "70MM"!
(It was horrible.)
So this is actually not That unusual.
Until the advent of home video films were routinely re-re-re-released to theaters.
"2001" had several relaunches.
"Saturday Night Fever" was famously recut to a "PG" and re-released.
Bottom line gross sales is a silly measure anyway.
Actual Ticket counts should be the only thing that matters.
GTTW still performs very high on That list.

Horace Austin said...

Who's weeping? Why is this a compeyition?


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