Check This Out: The $400 Million Club Box Office Graphic

August 28, 2009

The $400 Million Club - The Dark Knight

You might've already seen this elsewhere, but I thought I might feature it today as well, as there is so much interesting information on here. This newest graph, or infographic, whatever you want to call it, comes from our friends at - we've featured their graphs a few times before (here and here). It's called The $400 Million Club and it looks at the 9 movies in cinematic history (not considering inflation) to have crossed the $400 million mark at the domestic box office. As Anne Thompson points out: "It's a select club." And yet Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen made it on here with a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes? Go figure!

The $400 Million Club

It's always great to see how Titanic and Star Wars and The Dark Knight (being #2) rank against each other, but there's more. How about the fact that out of the Shrek and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises, it's only the first sequel that has reached these heights. Why not the first one? Why not the final movie in the trilogy? Yet at the same time, the first Spider-Man made over $400M, but not any of its sequels, not even the highly praised Spider-Man 2. Sometimes I just don't understand how or why the box office works, and this is one of those days. I mean, I get it, but, it's still a bit baffling to see everything on a chart like this. Thoughts?

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why is revenge of the fallen on there?! is hasn't made over $400 million according to the chart. i must be missing something. it didn't even deserve to make $400 dollars: mindless crap!

hey on Aug 28, 2009


At the time the chart was made, about 30 days ago, it wasn't at that level. It was included based off of predictions it would get there - and they were right. It's now at $398M (see here) so give it a few more weeks and it'll cross that $400M mark.

Alex Billington on Aug 28, 2009


micael bay rulz

qweqwu on Aug 28, 2009


michael damn keyboard

qweqwu on Aug 28, 2009


See, I'm not even sure why they'd bother with a chart like this without factoring in inflation. It's practically pointless, since $400m is a far different number now than it was in 1977. Star Wars' accomplishment is greatly undervalued, and the only indication is the limited amount of theaters it opened in compared to the others. The Dark Knight, on the other hand, really wasn't that big of deal in the grand scheme of things and Transformers: ROTF even less so. This is the chart you really should be paying attention to:

Devon Shaw on Aug 28, 2009


There is no formula, and really no way to predict what movie will make this list...of all the pics on that lists, perhaps only Dark Knight gave an inkling of what was to come...and with it, like others it was a perfect storm that created the 500 mil + totals...Ledgers untimely death, sequel following, comic book flick, great reviews & word of mouth. All of the 400+ films over-achieved, except perhaps Phantom Menace, which surely would have made 100-200 mil more with good buzz and reviews...Even when a movie exceeds box office expectations, rarely does it do as well as these have done... If one wants to know the main ingredients for a smash hit...these are a few... A target audience & ravenous fan base exist prior to release...kid friendly(can't make huge sums without teens repeat viewership)...Solid Buzz/Expectations are high...Being a Sequel(five are sequels or prequels)...timing, this one is less important, but can really factor in...and the last thing is the intangible qualities...Titanic, young girl romance factor; Dark Knight, Ledgers Death; Phantom Menace, first Star Wars in 16 years, etc... At the end of the day many of the films one would expect to be huge are often not...some fall just short of 400, like Revenge of the Sith, Spider-man 2 or Return of the King...some miss the boat by wide margins...Attack of the Clones & Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull are two. Every year there are 10-15 movies with 400 mil+ potential...but only about one makes the list every other year on average...So the real magic, is hitting the widow of time when a perfect storm exists, with a movie that has the make up to be a huge success. Avatar is a prime example of a movie that has most if not all of the pieces to hit this list, but will it? You can definitely argue both sides. But in most cases, the one expected to do big dollars more often than not fall short of expectations...So, I'll say it will do just over 400, slightly better than Transformers & Spider-man, but well short of 450...

Kamish on Aug 28, 2009


PS: Alex, please, for the love of God, turn that in-text advertising back off. It's even more merciless than the full page popup ads IMDB was using.

Devon Shaw on Aug 28, 2009


By simple math, you can see that ET is the one who made more money by cinema ($244K) and one with the lower average is TDK with $122K. Considering that ET was in the 80's, the population in that time and a $3 ticket then, you can estimate that 62% of the US population went to see it and for Titanic with a $4 ticket only 52%. So, more money doesn't mean more people, just shows how the prices have been increasing. By the way, TDK with $4 has a 47%...

Fercho on Aug 28, 2009


Not too long ago, IMDB did an all-time box office and factored in inflation. If memory serves me correct, I think Gone with the Wind was first and New Hope was 2nd. Actually... Cool, my memory serves me well. You know what this STILL doesn't factor in? The amount of theaters the older movies were in. ET, New Hope, and Gone with the Wind were in less than HALF the theaters as the ones in the past decade. That is just crazy. Cray cray.

branden on Aug 28, 2009


Profits are useless, this conversation should be based on tickets sold. And if that were the case, Gone With The Wind would dominate this conversation.

bart on Aug 28, 2009


Of that list, Star Wars is by far the most shocking. Looking back on it, Star Wars is a complete classic and has spawned five other films, cartoon series, action figures, etc, etc, etc, I could list every merchandise and board game possible that Star Wars has been connected to. But, in 1977 in only 1,750 theaters and without inflation, it made more than all but two of those films (Titanic and Dark Knight). That is really amazing to see, especially in graphic form.

Internapse on Aug 28, 2009


I get tired of seeing $values for movies made. They need to just make # of tickets sold and use that as the basis for a movie. You can't always adjust for inflation to an exact value, but you 2 tickets sold in 1957 would still equate to 2 tickets sold in 2009.

Mike McRorey on Aug 28, 2009


#11 and it furthers Alex's questions of why the heck wasn't Empire Strikes Back higher? I mean, it obviously got HUGE buzz after the first one, several people were anticipating it, it was probably in more theaters, AND most people think that Empire Strikes Back was the best movie of the franchise. Of all the box office sequel mind-bogglers, that is the biggest one.

branden on Aug 28, 2009


you would think it would be similar to Batman Begins and Dark Knight, but I don't know. Weird.

branden on Aug 28, 2009


Wow #5 and #9...reading down the adjusted list just shows that it's not uncommon for some lame ass movies to make a lot of money and that this "club" isn't so prestigious afterall.

S on Aug 28, 2009


Tracking money is just for marketing purposes, and not a real stat. Tracking tickets would accurately indicate how popular/ successful a movie is. For instance assume the average ticket price for TDK was $10, approximately 53.3 million people watched it. Compare that to Star Wars, where the avg ticket price was $2.20 back in 1977, approximately 209.5 million saw it. I sure my estimates are off b/c Star Was was released several times throughout the years at different ticket prices, but it illustrates my point.

blester01 on Aug 28, 2009


@#14: What specific "Lame-ass" movies are you talking about? The top 20 on that list feature some of the best US cinema ever made, and while there's a lot of shit on that list, a lot of it is towards the bottom and is much much more recent. I think the 'prestige' of a > $400 Million release is being eroded by the fact that ticket prices are constantly going up. I think the number of tickes sold would be a much better indicator of a film's popularity. I mean, what happens when the US dollar is as inflated as the Zimbabwe dollar? Tickets will cost $10 million. If 40 people go see your film you're considered presigious? Well, if inflation was that bad, I guess getting 40 people to see a flick might not be that bad...

Squiggly_P on Aug 28, 2009


#17 I almost got really upset at you, but you were talking to #15. The only lame movie on that list is Transformers 2. Even then, nobody can argue that it wasn't visually entertaining. Actually, I will argue against you #17 cause your US dollar to Zimbabwe dollar argument makes no sense at all. I can almost, maybe, try to see what you're trying to, it's just stupid. The US dollar will never be as inflated as the Zimbabwe dollar....

branden on Aug 28, 2009


#13 - That is very odd indeed. Although, once you adjust for inflation, Empire Strikes Back is seated at #2 of the Star Wars films. -- Box Office Mojo has a great graphical chart of this comparison, and how much inflation weighs in compared to today's films. It just shows us that the original Star Wars: A New Hope was a once in a generation kind of film.

Internapse on Aug 28, 2009


titanic was overrated crap, and yea star wars is underrated for the money it brought in

harrison on Aug 28, 2009


Looking at the amount of theatres Star Wars & ET were in, those numbers are even MORE impressive. Interesting.

Shannon on Aug 28, 2009


So in the end, this just proves that Star Wars and E.T. did better than the rest! Half the amount of theaters and half the cost during that time.

SillySil & dave13 on Aug 28, 2009


I've been grappling with that inflation argument for... well a long time. I've been trying to justify it. Sure, less people go to movies, but I would still call TDK as big of a success as ET. It probably had more of a mainstream cultural impact than ET did (although Batman already being a household name may have helped). To me that's just... I don't like box office #'s, I really don't. They're a very basic way of measuring success, but oh so inaccurate in terms of profit and so many things. So as for the inflation... People seem to just use it to say that all these old movies were "more successful" than current movies when I don't think that's the argument anyone is trying to make with this chart. Anyway, I don't know what I'm saying, just diggin up dirt for the hell of it. The inflation idea is something I'd love to dig into further one day...

Alex Billington on Aug 28, 2009


"but I would still call TDK as big of a success as ET. It probably had more of a mainstream cultural impact than ET did...." Hell NO, it wasn't!

phonehome on Aug 29, 2009


Only US theatrical $$ here. Look up international and worldwide no#. Try There you can see the ca. gross of lets say, Titanic, it's over $3 billion. To figure out how much Star Wars has made...well...thats a tough cookie, phantom menace had made $10million before it was released, and it was in a sense paid for by Pepsi & Burger King who paid $130million for the ad-rights(PM cost $120million). But this chart is US boxoffice, hense its weak. In the glory days of cinema, ca 20's-30's more then 100 million cinema tickets were sold try with inflation to figure out those no#......the horror, the horror!

David Banner on Aug 29, 2009


I hate to add fuel to the fire (that is a lie) but you arent taking into account the advertising media of the time!!! you are comparing 1977 (regional radio, tv and print) to 2009 (WORLD WIDE WEB, world wide print, viral marketing, radio, tv, cable, text and cell, etc) not to mention the nature of corporate sponsorship in current marketing (soft drinks, cars, etc)...Star wars didnt have transforming characters that were walking ads for products in the real world (transformers = transforming mountain dew machine robots hello!) (then again E.T. and Reeses pieces?) there are a lot of these kinds of factors that need to be taken into account which make lists like these useless!

Lando on Aug 29, 2009


you guys are crazy. sure E.T. and star wars kicked ass but you have to remember that fewer movies came out back then compared to now. so what if the price of tickets have doubled. when you have major movie during summer and every week before and after it there is more decent movies to go see then it can take away from sales. im not taking anything away from those classics but just like gone with the wind. you know why its inflation amount is out of this world?? because there was nothing for it to go up against. btw is it really fair that star wars was rereleased a couple more times??

buzali on Aug 29, 2009


Um, Buz, go back to Econ 101... the rise of inflation has absolutely no correlation with the amount of movies released at a given point and time. Here's the deal: Inflation arguments are perfectly valid because they're a statistical value of buying power at the time. The adjusted profits for these older movies indicate that people spent a higher percentage of comparative buying power on Gone With The Wind and Ben-Hur than Titanic and The Dark Knight, not-so-surprisingly by a factor of 2 or 3. You can attempt to make the argument that more movies released dilutes the pool, or that people have more options for escapism today than they did fifty years ago, but you have no solid data for them, and even if you did it doesn't change the bottom line: That movies on the top of the adjusted inflation list had far more of an impact on society, both financially and culturally. There's making excuses, and there's looking at the bottom line. Adjusted For Inflation does that. #10 and #12 propose that adjustments should be made on ticket sales, which is a fair argument -- However, there's other problems with that, some of which people on this thread have pointed out: 1. Less theaters means less distribution and half the potential customers. Imagine if The Ten Commandments had a 4,200 theater-opening in 1956. 2. The population of the United States in 1956 was just shy of 169 million people. In 2008 it'd grown to 303 million. The vast majority of growth since has occurred in urban high-density areas, which would only encourage such social activities as ticket sales. 3. Due to the latter half of Point 2, you can't argue that half the people and half the theaters equates to a comparable ratio of ticket buyers. Even if you did, that would require over 2,000 theaters to open with The Ten Commandments in 1956. We didn't see those kind of wide releases until the 80s. At least three movies on this all-time list deserve the *asterisk, and that's the original Star Wars Trilogy. To accurately portray the total adjusted gross of each movie, you would have to combine the adjusted sales from the original 1977, 1980 and 1983 releases along with the independently adjusted totals from the 1997 re-releases. It wouldn't surprise me if the Box Office Mojo chart factors in a grand profit total and uses the original release year as an inflation multiplier. It would be interesting to email them and find out. I say "at least" these movies because I'm not sure if any other movies on this list have benefitted from a similar re-release schedule. Alex, you guys would probably be able to shed more light on that. As for The Dark Knight having the equivalent cultural impact as ET, I think it's a premature and possibly naïve assessment. You have to remember ET was absolutely groundbreaking in every sense, shattered attendance records, cleaned up at the Oscars, and won universal acclaim in the decades following. The Dark Knight is more remembered for finally bringing respect to the superhero genre, and for the posthuman performance of Heath Ledger. I doubt we'll see such a loyal following 20 years from now, though you can probably be rest-assured that Christopher Nolan won't see fit to digitally edit all his firearms into walkie-talkies. 🙂

Devon Shaw on Aug 29, 2009


"I doubt we'll see such a loyal following 20 years from now" I think it's a premature and possibly naïve assessment.

SlashBeast on Aug 30, 2009


@18: Inflation increases exponentially every year. It might not seem like a big deal now because we have fairly low-ish inflation, but the same inflation rate that applies now will apply in 20, 50 and 100 years from now. The US dollar has inflated a hell of a lot in the last 100 years. One US dollar in 1900 is worth about $25 in modern cash. This means that every dollar you have now would only have been worth four cents in 1900... that's a 96% decrease in value since 1900. If that were to continue for the next 100 years, your movie tickets will cost you over $200. At that point you'd only need a couple million people to see a movie to break the $400 million mark. That's why I think seeing the actual ticket sales figures would be a better representation of popularity. Money changes. If you include inflation and remove the films that were released multiple times in theaters, the highest grossing film of all time is "The Sound of Music" at over $1 Billion. And I dunno why the comment switched like that... I know that guy was sitting at #14 when I wrote that... now he's 15. Maybe multiple comments were posted at the same time and it pushed that one back one spot later or something? dunno... And I'd argue that it wasn't visually entertaining. At least, it wasn't for me. I couldn't tell what was going on in half the fights. I couldn't tell which robot was which half the time, and watching CG robots hit each other just doesn't do it for me. You ask "Well why did you even go see it"... it's funny how little people expect from a movie. I was expecting a fucking story. I got Wrestlemania reenacted by talking cars. In other words: I was expecting far too much from Micheal Bay. I must have been out of my mind for even entertaining the idea that that flick would have had any kind of plot. But yeah, the inflation 'arguments' are absolutely valid. You could get every man woman and child in the US to see a film twice in 1930 and never break that $400 million barrier. Tickets just didn't cost that much. You're talking 25 cents and at the time something like 200-250 million people. Hell, even at today's 300 million... at 25-50 cents a head you wouldn't break $400 million if everyone in the country saw it twice. Inflation is a huge factor, and the $400 million mark is just an arbitrary number that only applies today. In 50 years it'll be a $600 million barrier, or more. It's a bullshit chart.

Squiggly_P on Aug 30, 2009


328 Devon Shaw Shut the fack up you pussy shitting asshat.

SlashBeast on Nov 22, 2010

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