Sunday, January 9, 2011

Highest Grossing Movies of All Time - USA vs. Non-USA Charts Comparison

All-Time USA Box office
1 Avatar (2009)  $760,505,847 
2 Titanic (1997)  $600,779,824 
3 The Dark Knight (2008)  $533,316,061 
4 Star Wars (1977)  $460,935,665 
5 Shrek 2 (2004)  $436,471,036 
6 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)  $434,949,459 
7 Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)  $431,065,444 
8 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)  $423,032,628 
9 Toy Story 3 (2010)  $414,984,497 
10 Spider-Man (2002)  $403,706,375 
11 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)  $402,076,689 
12 Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)  $380,262,555 
13 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)  $377,019,252 
14 Spider-Man 2 (2004)  $373,377,893 
15 The Passion of the Christ (2004)  $370,270,943 
16 Jurassic Park (1993)  $356,784,000 
17 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)  $340,478,898 
18 Finding Nemo (2003)  $339,714,367 
19 Spider-Man 3 (2007)  $336,530,303 
20 Alice in Wonderland (2010)  $334,185,206 

All-Time Non-USA Box office
1 Avatar (2009) $2,021,000,000
2 Titanic (1997) $1,234,600,000
3 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)$752,200,000
4 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009) $691,200,000
5 Alice in Wonderland (2010) $689,100,000
6 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) $651,100,000
7 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) $649,000,000
8 Toy Story 3 (2010) $648,000,000
9 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) $645,000,000
10 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) $642,863,913
11 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) $632,000,000
12 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)$616,000,000
13 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) $604,400,000
14 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) $602,200,000
15 2012 (2009/I) $600,700,000
16 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) $583,495,746
17 Jurassic Park (1993) $563,000,000
18 Spider-Man 3 (2007) $548,900,000
19 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of ... (2001) $547,100,000
20 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) $546,100,000
If you take a look at the All-Time USA and the All-Time Non-USA Box office charts you'll most probably notice that they have some differences. While the worldwide highest-grossing movies of all time Avatar and Titanic are easily heading both of the charts, the rest of the positions are pretty much occupied by non-identical movie titles. While there could be a variety of reasons for that situation, we'll share mainly direct observations and comment on some of them. The article is based just on the Top 20 parts of the charts as published on IMDb at the date of this writing and most probably some changes will occur in the future although the main picture shouldn't be altered significantly for the time being. The charts are taken from IMDb as being most convenient for the current comparison but the information is pretty much the same at other popular sources like Box Office Mojo or Wikipedia. So, here is what we see...

To start with the most obvious - all of the seven Harry Potter movies are in the Non-USA Top 20 while none of them is in the USA Top 20. This leads us to the first observation - films based on books are more popular outside US which is also confirmed if we look at some of the other highest-grossing movies of all time based on famous books in the lists. The Non-USA chart has all 3 The Lord of the Rings episodes as well as Alice in Wonderland in number 5 spot while the USA chart has 2 of The Lord of the Rings movies on lower positions. The same is valid for Alice in Wonderland being in the last spot of the USA Top 20. One could state that all of these books have been written by non-American authors but on the other hand it could not be said that there are many movies based on American books in the USA Top 20 either so this should not be the main reason. All of these book-based movies are Hollywood films so their country of origin could not be a reason also. It could be argued that non-USA population is still more keen on books and this assumption could be somehow supported having in mind the United States are the most technically advanced nation and thus eventually spending not so much time in reading books as people living in the rest of the world.

Speaking of reading, here is the place to mention another group of movies - the films based on comic books. And now we observe the opposite thing - the comic book movies are found primarily in the USA Top 20 chart. We can see there all 3 Spider-Man movies and a Batman movie (ranked immediately after Avatar and Titanic) while in the Non-USA chart we find only Spider-Man 3 in the Top 20. This observation could be easily attributed to the comic book keener America and most probably it's a good explanation but we have also to mention that Heath Ledger's Oscar winning performance and his untimely death have led to an enormous hype about The Dark Knight movie contributing to the monstrous success of the film in the US.

Since all of the aforementioned films based on non-comic books are fantasy movies and all of them have been more successful outside the USA it could be somehow supported that the non-US audience is more interested in the fantasy genre. On the other hand, one could notice that there are more sci-fi movies in the American highest-grossing films Top 20 compared to the non-USA chart - we can see 3 of the 6 Star Wars movies in there plus Avatar, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Jurassic Park. While there are not so many sci-fi films in the Non-USA Top 20 chart (we can see Avatar, 2012 and Jurassic Park and none of the Star Wars movies) it's still not so obvious if the USA has a real big advantage in the sci-fi genre. It could be considered the success of the 2 prequel Star Wars films founded in the chart is based primarily on the hype having in mind the iconic status of the original Star Wars trilogy in the USA. But even if it's not surely clear if the Americans are bigger sci-fi fans, we can say that while 2012 and Transformers are not so much of gems and critically acclaimed, the Non-US public could do better with the original Star Wars movie and E.T..

It could be also noticed that Star Wars and E.T. are pre-1990 movies and there is not a single movie so old in the Non-USA chart. This could be related to the better developed US movie market establishing cinema as a wide-spread accessible attraction much earlier in the 20th century than the rest of the world. The latter enabled for sure some older movies to generate significant revenue (even with ticket-price inflation not being considered).

While observing the rest of the titles on the highest grossing movies of all time charts does not lead to some general conclusions, we may note that there are some films not mentioned until now (and apart from the worldwide highest grossing films Avatar and Titanic) that have been appealing to the both markets. These include Toy Story 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Being entertaining movies without big life-meaning pretensions and the success of their former episodes are probably the keys of their worldwide attractiveness.

Finally, we should congratulate the US audience for appreciating Shrek 2 and Finding Nemo, both of them being widely critically acclaimed with lots of humor and pop culture references.

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