'Iron Man 3' 5th or 100th at Box Office And Why I Hate Today's Ranking System

If you're part of a studio marketing team, (Or anyone who uses statistical results to market their product/work), you always want to present the best possible angle on your pitch.

One of my favorite examples of positive spin was when NBC blatantly called their then new series, Revolution, the #1 TV show today.  And it was.  Once you only looked at Mondays, at its time slot, and compared it to other brand new, premiering series.  But they left out a few key words while the show wasn't even coming up for air on the top-25 charts of all TV shows watched for the week.

But the spin was the spin. 

[brusimm.com: Is Revolution Really The No 1 New Show?]

So I'm sure, for the hardcore Iron Man 3 movie fans, hearing that the movie was 5th in all-time box office numbers seemed pretty exciting.  And for those still wondering if they want to see the movie, that's an alluring pitch.

But wait, I like to break down a few facets about the box office numbers because I'm a pragmatic man.  That, and B.O. #'s are like movie trailers, and those can be filled with misdirects, as we've come to learn!

So yes, worldwide gross ticket sales, Iron Man 3 is 5th on that chart.  Right behind Avatar, Titanic, The Avengers and Harry Potter/Deathly Hollows Pt 2.

But IM3 it sits 17th on the domestic movie ticket charts.

Better yet, one of my favorite angles to look at is when ticket prices from all years are adjusted according to the average ticket price of that year, then reviewed as the estimated number of tickets sold for that movie.

And when Box Office Mojo does that for domestic ticket sales, suddenly Iron Man 3 is finding itself sitting 100th on a list that's topped by Gone with the Wind.



That's a rather telling tale if you ask me.  I don't give a huge amount of credit to worldwide numbers because when you look at average ticket prices overseas ranging from $21 (Japan) to $8 a ticket, it's easy to see how the numbers can get skewed into huge looking results.

But also, let's take into account that today's average (domestic) ticket price, with all the over-priced formats, looks just shy of $8, versus the near $5 average in 2000, it's easy to see how a movie can set new records.  And it can even sell fewer tickets to do it.

An eye-opening comparison:
In 2013, the average ticket price is $7.94 (Thanks to 3D, IMAX, etc.)
In 2000, the average ticket price was $5.39

So if a movie sold fifty thousand (50,000) tickets in the year 2000, a 2013 movie would only have to sell thirty-four thousand (34,000) tickets to break the year 2000's box office record.

That means today's movie only has to sell close to 70% the number of tickets its brethren did in 2000, to kick its butt at the box office battle.

I have no problem with comparing movie to movie, in the same year.  At least then it's on the same scale money chart.  But the new dollars record will be heralded as the end-all of winners of all movies since the beginning of Hollywood.  And that's never felt right to me.

Yet many will argue for the common reporting tool as the end determinant to a film's perceived popularity.  Me, I'm too pragmatic to buy into the hype.


So sure, it's fun to point to your favorite movie and say it's kicking butt at the box office.  I get it.  But if you dare break it down, it's not always as exciting as it seems.  You might as well be having a speed test and comparing a model rocket to a real NASA rocket!

And here in the U.S., with Iron Man 3 sitting at 17th all-time domestically, I think the news of the sham of a shell game director Shane Black played with The Mandarin has spread, word-of-mouth, and the franchise purists have gone on to different things to enjoy at their local movie theater.



boxofficemojo: alltime/world

boxofficemojo: alltime/domestic



  1. So it's done good at the box office but when inflation kicks in its got a long ways to go? Gotcha Einstein.

  2. So I'm sure you looked at the reference links and looked over the references before being a sarcastic ass, right nameless Anon? I'm sure you did. What am I thinking? LOL


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