Do 3D, IMAX and Expensive Overseas Ticket Prices Help set False Box Office Records?

3D, IMAX and Overseas Ticket prices help soaring Box Office Records.  But what's the most popular movie ever?  Did it break monetary records, or just sell the most seats in a theater?

If you've ever wondered how it is some movies do so much better overseas than they do domestically, in word, maybe they don't. 

I used to think the overseas movie fan was flocking to the theater to see some of these movies.  But it turns out that overseas ticket prices are pretty costly!!!

Some time ago I did a quickie list of movie ticket prices in other countries and found out that it cost from $8 to $21 for a movie ticket in other lands around the world.

  • Seoul: $8;
  • Tel Aviv: $10;
  • Moscow, Rio de Janeiro: $14;
  • Paris, France: $15;
  • Helsinki, Sweden, Denmark: $16;
  • Norway: $17;
  • Australia:  $18;
  • Switzerland: $19;
  • Japan: $21
I wanted to see if anything has changed, and thought I'd see about updating the chart.

I could not find anything recent on these numbers so what I did was hit up Google Maps, crank up a country, zoom/focus in on its capital or some major city that a monster destroyed in some sci-fi movie, then searched for movie theaters.  After that, I pulled up that theater's website and checked out the prices for tickets.
What I found was just how much more Japanese and Swiss folks pay for movie tickets!
Japan:   General tickets went for 1,800 yen.  With the present currency exchange rate, that came out to $18.07 per ticket.  (
Switzerland:  A ticket cost CHF 18. (Swiss Frank)  The present exchange rate made their movie tickets cost $19.26 US Dollars.  (

Australia: Wolverine 2D in the Century City theater cost (converted to USD), $17.56.
Norway: RIPD 2D, 1 adult ticket (They assign you seats) = kr100.00.  A ticket in US dollars would cost $15.41. (
RIPD, or Ghost Patrol

Russia: The good movie deals are in Russia or I picked a bad example theater.  The 3D version of RIPD, called Ghost Patrol there, cost 230 rubles  or $7.11 US Dollars. (
= = =
What I found interesting was that the most expensive market in the world, Japan, usually seems to get movies a lot later than the rest of the world.  I remember when The Avengers opened up for wide theatrical release on April 28th, but in Japan, it didn't open until August 14th.

Pacific Rim opened in the US on July 12th, but it doesn't open until August 9th in Japan and Spain, while Greece has to wait until Sept. 12th.

Must curious.

The most recent hit, The Wolverine, had a $138M worldwide box office take on its first weekend, starting July 26th.  And it won't open in Japan until Sept. 13th. 

Those poor folks really are kept on a string.  No wonder there are so many movie pirates out there!

Basically, for select markets, 10 overseas movie goers are worth 20 US domestic tickets.  That means despite what I used to think, it's almost a little underwhelming. 

Where as I thought they flocked to the theaters overseas, it's really about the same or fewer ticket buying fans, while the financial numbers take off for the studios.

And this approach at looking at prices, pretty much doesn't touch on how the average ticket prices are soaring because of large or 3D format movies that are creating huge numbers to create even more box office records.

I once got into a "debate" about box office records with a peer.

The premise was it doesn't matter what it cost the movie consumer, if they want to go see it bad enough, that counts for more than how many people have gone to see a movie.

My argument was that if 1000 people went and saw a movie that cost $4 many years ago, and now only 500 people go to see a movie that cost $10, you've set the box office record, so to speak, but fewer people saw this new movie.  My contention was the popularity of how many people went to see a movie outweighs the monetary sale pitch.

But being able to have news and media outlets say that the newest movie broke all box office records is incredible word of mouth and it spawns consumers' interest in the movie.  Combined with word-of-mouth, more folks are inclined to pile into a movie theater to catch this headline making movie.
It's truly a simple and great marketing tactic.  Period.

Case in point...

Box Office Mojo has this great movie ticket price calculator that estimates average movie ticket prices.

They also have a great chart that breaks down box office hits, and estimate how many people saw a movie, versus how much a movie made.
For instance, in the following chart, you can see the all-time domestic box office successes.  But in the second column, is where the movie ranks, as far as estimated tickets sold.  (Look at how hard and far Iron Man 3 falls.  I'm not surprised.  Who needed to go see it when Disney marketed the crap out of, played a shell game with a character, and showed all the good stuff in previews???)
Row Rank Title  Est. Tickets Unadjusted Gross Year^
1 14 Avatar 97,255,300 $760,507,625 2009^
2 5 Titanic 135,474,500 $658,672,302 1997^
3 27 Marvel's The Avengers 76,768,200 $623,357,910 2012
4 29 The Dark Knight 74,455,400 $534,858,444 2008^
5 17 Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 90,312,100 $474,544,677 1999^
6 2 Star Wars 178,119,600 $460,998,007 1977^
7 63 The Dark Knight Rises 57,601,400 $448,139,099 2012
8 32 Shrek 2 71,050,900 $441,226,247 2004
9 4 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial 141,854,300 $435,110,554 1982^
10 46 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest 64,628,400 $423,315,812 2006
11 18 The Lion King 89,146,400 $422,783,777 1994^
12 90 Toy Story 3 52,201,900 $415,004,880 2010
13 93 The Hunger Games 50,838,300 $408,010,692 2012
14 102 Iron Man 3 48,610,800 $407,358,766 2013
15 36 Spider-Man 69,484,700 $403,706,375 2002

If you're curious, check out the all-time, most estimated seats sold top-5:

Rank Title (click to view) Est. Tickets Unadjusted Gross Year^
1 Gone with the Wind 202,044,600 $198,676,459 1939^
2 Star Wars 178,119,600 $460,998,007 1977^
3 The Sound of Music 142,415,400 $158,671,368 1965
4 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial 141,854,300 $435,110,554 1982^
5 Titanic 135,474,500 $658,672,302 1997^

I'm not trying to start a revolution. All I'm suggesting or pointing out is that as box office prices go up with 3D and large format movie ticket prices costing 130% more than than a standard ticket, we will be seeing more records broken, while fewer people go see the movies.

(Did you know:  3D Ticket prices are 50% more and IMAX tickets prices are roughly 130% more than a 2D screening.  And if you add the trick where 16 out of 24 screenings in a day of a movie are 3D and/or IMAX, well, you do the math.)
What the movie consumer thinks is a boon for what looks like a great movie that everyone loves, is really just a numbers game.

With that said, if you can muster it, go see Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim in 3D!  Sure, 3D is a stupid gimmick that is not necessary for most dramatic movies, but for visual eye-fests, it's fun.  And I want to see a Pacific Rim sequel!!!  Hehe.

= = =

Tickets sold source:  boxofficemojo

Domestic Box Office: boxofficemojo

Here's some interesting numbers from BOM:

2013 average ticket price of $8.16.
2012 average ticket price of $7.96.
2011 average ticket price of $7.93.
2010 average ticket price of $7.89.
2009 average ticket price of $7.50.
2008 average ticket price of $7.18.
2007 average ticket price of $6.88.
2006 average ticket price of $6.55.
2005 average ticket price of $6.41.
2004 average ticket price of $6.21.

They say

"Inflation-adjustment is mostly done by multiplying estimated admissions by the latest average ticket price. Where admissions are unavailable, adjustment is based on the average ticket price for when each movie was released (taking in to account re-releases where applicable)."

-BeS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -