Highest grossing films | Sunday Observer

Highest grossing films

13 August, 2023

Films generate income from several revenue streams, such as theatrical exhibition, home video, television broadcast rights, and merchandising.

However, theatrical box-office earnings are the primary metric for trade publications in assessing the success of a film, mostly because of the availability of the data compared to sales figures for home video and broadcast rights, but also because of historical practice.

Included on the list are charts of the top box-office earners, a chart of high-grossing films by calendar year, a timeline showing the transition of the highest-grossing film record, and a chart of the highest-grossing film franchises and series.

All charts are ranked by international theatrical box-office performance where possible, excluding income derived from home video, broadcasting rights, and merchandise.

Traditionally, war films, musicals, and historical dramas have been the most popular genres, but franchise films have been among the best performers of the 21st century. There is strong interest in the superhero genre, with ten films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe featuring among the nominal top-earners. The most successful superhero film, ‘Avengers: Endgame’, is also the second-highest-grossing film on the nominal earnings chart, and there are four films in total based on the ‘Avenger’s comic books charting in the top twenty. Other Marvel Comics adaptations have also had success.

While inflation has eroded the achievements of most films from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, there are franchises originating from that period that are still active. Besides the Star Wars and ‘Superman’ franchises, ‘James Bond’ and ‘Godzilla’ films are still being released periodically; all four are among the highest-grossing franchises.

Some of the older films that held the record of highest-grossing film still have respectable grosses by today’s standards, but no longer compete numerically against today’s top-earners in an era of much higher individual ticket prices. When those prices are adjusted for inflation, however, then ‘Gone with the Wind’ —which was the highest-grossing film outright for twenty-five years — is still the highest-grossing film of all time.

With a worldwide box-office gross of over $2.9 billion, ‘Avatar’ is proclaimed to be the “highest-grossing” film, but such claims usually refer to theatrical revenues only and do not take into account home video and television income, which can form a significant portion of a film’s earnings.

‘Titanic’ earned $1.2 billion from video and DVD sales and rentals, in addition to the $2.2 billion it grossed in theatres. While complete sales data are not available for ‘Avatar’, it earned $345 million from the sale of sixteen million DVD and Blu-ray units in North America, and ultimately sold a total of thirty million DVD and Blu-ray units worldwide.

Television broadcast rights will also substantially add to a film’s earnings, with a film often earning the equivalent of as much as 20–25% of its theatrical box office for two television runs, on top of pay-per-view revenues.

When a film is highly exploitable as a commercial property, its ancillary revenues can dwarf its income from direct film sales. ‘The Lion King’ (1994) earned over $2 billion in box-office and home video sales, but this pales in comparison to the $8 billion earned at box offices around the world by the stage adaptation.

Merchandising can be extremely lucrative too.