Why journalists don’t account for inflation when they report box office records.


They are not journalists.  That is why.  Mass media operates as a very complex machinery influenced by who owns what and who knows who.  The creation and distribution of news is not as simple as one would expect to be.  The people involved in the process appear as simple individuals in their capacities but are in fact a modern-day evolution of what the traditional person in that position once has been.  Consumers remember names and numbers indefinitely if only vaguely and forget almost everything else unless has some emotional attachment to hook it in the brain.  The marketability of products such as movies, careers and fame is increased for a short moment using any device available.  The short version is it is all lies and we all know it.  When the consumer was taught good handy skills in high school the necessary skills to protect oneself against the massive frauds in the media should have been taught.  Maybe someday will be done.

By Zachary Pincus-RothPosted Monday, July 6, 2009, at 7:03 AM ET

Read more from Slate's Summer Movies special issue.

Gone With the Wind.Clark Gable with Vivien Leigh in Gone With the WindWhen The Dark Knight earned $158 million in its opening weekend last summer, journalists wentgaga over the possibility that it would unseatTitanic as the all-time domestic box office leader. But the race was utter bunk. Accounting for inflation, the true record holder is Gone With the Wind, which—in 2009 dollars—earned over 50 percent more than Titanic and almost three times as much as The Dark Knight. Rhett Butler doesn't give a damn about Jack Dawson, let alone Bruce Wayne.

Every summer, journalists engage in this brand of misleading speculation. Even when there isn't an all-time contender like The Dark Knight, other records trip us up. For instance, in 2007, journalistsproclaimed The Bourne Ultimatum the top August opening ever, but when you account for inflation, it's surpassed by 2001'sRush Hour 2 and 2002's Signs. While this summer's Star Trek($247 million-plus) seems light-years beyond its predecessors, it actually only inched by 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which made $235 million in 2009 dollars.

The problems with our growing fixation on box office figures—they don't account for costs of the film, they don't include home-entertainment revenue, etc.—have been chronicled in the past. But as long as we continue to indulge this obsession, shouldn't journalists at least factor in inflation, instead of pretending that it doesn't exist?



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