As Avatar nears the threshold of surpassing Titanic in both domestic box office gross and global box office gross, it’s time to start gearing up for the “Ticket Prices Adjusted For Inflation” comparison.  There are actually three variables that could be considered:

  • Rise in ticket prices from an average of $4.69 in 1998 to $7,35 in 2010
  • 3D Premium Charges
  • Impact of massive digital downloads (more than 1M for Avatar in the first few weeks.

My position on this is going to be as follows.  First, no problem with change in ticket prices — this will be included.  As for the other two, first of all I think the 3D premium charges really shouldn’t be considered because this was a clear risk taken by the filmmaker and the studio to add enough value through the 3D process to warrant the surcharge.  This was a gamble and there was no guarantee of success.  Audiences, had they flet the 3D didn’t deliver a viewing experience that made it worth the extra money, could just as easily have saved their surcharge money and gone to the 2d version.  So I won’t make an allowance for this.

As for the downloads — it’s clear that Avatar faces a far greater piracy challenge because of the massive number of illegal downloads, but I don’t see any way to make an adjustment in Avatar’s favor to account for this.  But I mention just as a way of quelling anyone who wants to argue about the 3D surcharge.  If you don’t by my argument about the 3D surcharge, then let’s just consider the 3D surcharge (advantage Avatar) and the download problem (advantage Titanic) to be a wash.

So, as of today, Avatar has unadjusted gross of $512,852,205 in 34 days in release.   Titanic had $242,748,914 after 34 days in release.  If we apply the inflation adjuster we multiply Titanic’s total of $242,748,914 by 156% (derived by dividing $4.69 into $7.45) and Titanic’s adjusted total becomes$380,427,403 after 34 days in release.  So Avatar still has a comfortable lead on an inflation adjusted ‘same number of days in release’ basis — however we all know that what is about to happen is that Titanic’s incredible ‘legs’ are going to start showing.  Avatar has been trending very much like Titanic — but not completely so.  It has great legs, but not quite as strong as Titanic.  So we’ll have to wait and watch and see.  Charts will be forthcoming.

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