December 19, 2006
10 Years

I was just doing some preliminary research on something totally unrelated to Oscar, and I was faced with some rather interesting information as a result.

Next year marks the tenth anniversary of the highest-grossing theatrical release of all time, James Cameron's "Titanic," which managed over $600 million in the U.S. alone. That was also the year George Lucas re-released his initial "Star Wars" trilogy, elevating the already astronomical tallies of those films and then some.

The top ten domestic grossers of all time now reads like a list of genre entries, sequel glut and Jesus, perhaps as a direct result of that landmark year of 1997. But prior to that, the list was a much different one indeed.

Here's what the top 10 domestic grossers would have looked like exactly ten years ago today (in parentheses you'll note each respective film's placement on today's chart):

01. "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" (Steven Spielberg, 1982) - $400 million (4)
02. "Jurassic Park" (Steven Spielberg, 1993) - $357 million (12)
03. "Forrest Gump" (Robert Zmeckis, 1994) - $329 million (15)
04. "Star Wars" (George Lucas, 1977) - $322 million (2)
05. "The Lion King" (Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff, 1994) - $312 million (16)
06. "Independence Day" (Roland Emmerich, 1996) - $306 million (21)
07. "Return of the Jedi" (Richard Marquand, 1983) - $263 million (20)
08. "The Empire Strikes Back" (Irvin Kershner, 1980) - $222 million (25)
09. "Home Alone" (Chris Columbus, 1990) - $285 million (27)
10. "Jaws" (Steven Spielberg, 1975) - $260 million (34)

and for good measure...

11. "Batman" (Tim Burton, 1989) - $251 million (36)

There's still plenty of genre fare, and of course, the "Star Wars" installments were always apparent, lending to the sequel discussion. But there's something so much fresher about this list than the on we've got today. Something much less spoon-fed, full of films audiences obviously went out and discovered, rather than being sold on them over and over again through advertising.

I'm not naive, of course. "Batman" owes pretty much its whole box office take to excessive marketing, for instance. But there was also something SMART about the marketing of old. The single image of a giant firewall destroying New York in initial trailers for "Independence Day" put butts in seats (to say nothing of a spaceship obliterating the White House). The ingenuity of comedy in "Home Alone" travelled via word-of-mouth until it was threatening $300 million in the U.S. alone. The whole buisness of film seemed much more in the background, though, than it is today. And I really have to say, I miss it.

This whole thing came about this evening when I purchased a DVD of "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" for ten bucks at the 7-11 up the street, to go along with my burrito and Hershey bar, of course. I seemed to recall a time when it was seriously just...about...the movies.


Star Wars was never that low, subsequent rereleases in the late seventies and early eighties brough it up into the the 370-380ish range (I don't know the exact amount) but it was much closer to ET at the time.

damn, posted too soon. Fox should have withheld Titanic from a major DVD release (it got some special edition last year) for a major theatrical rerelease in 2007, they probably could have added at least another 50-100 million with a 'see it Titanic sized (like you remember when you were little)' style compaign. It wouldn't even have to be an IMAX related, though that could be one aspect.

I don't think there's any other movie of the last twenty years that could sustain a rerelease of any magnitude except Titanic.

Lucas is rereleasing the Star Wars movies in 3D this year, correct? the last rerelease was very successful, how much more can it earn, and how much will the 3D novelty help and limit (theatre count) it?

Shit, I guess Kris was right, at least according to box office mojo. Back in 1997, as a teen I was a major major Star Wars geek (sadly, not so much today) and I could have sworn that Star Wars had always been number 2 behind ET, guess I just had rose colored glasses at the time. :p

I sorta love Home Alone 2 with a burning passion. IS THAT SO WRONG?!?

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