Sunday, February 21, 2010

Avatar; Footnote to an Asterisk

In comparing the Avatar box office grosses with Titanic, various showbiz pundits have pointed out that the figures are somewhat deceptive -- tickets cost more now, so you have to sell fewer of them to get the same dollar amount. Will Avatar ever sell as many tickets as Titanic? There's no way to tell (though it's starting to seem possible), but the usual adjustments for inflation don't really apply here the way they usually do. There is another factor at work, one we've never seen before. It throws off ythe pundits' calculations.

These higher ticket prices are not a function of vast economic forces, the inevitable rise of ticket prices over the whole marketplace for a decade or two. Much of this increase is voluntary, and specific to one film. People willingly paid a considerable premium to see Avatar in 3D. They accepted, even embraced, this one-time spike in movie pricing, happily forking over as much as twice the usual admission for this particular experience.

Avatar made more money faster than any other film in history because people were willing to pay so much more to see it. That's not just a footnote to a box office asterisk. In an era when most people prefer to pay less for movies and see them on cable, or rent them through netflix --or else just wait until they're on normal television, that's an un paralleled endorsement by an unequalled number of people for a unique film experience.

No asterisk required.

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