The Hollywood Reporter Sunday declared that Frozen “Box Office Milestone: Frozen Becomes No. 1 Animated Film of All Time”. And while that is a nice story to whip the masses to click to your site, it’s a very incorrect story. Pamela McClintock biography from The Hollywood Reporter “McClintock is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism who has worked for Variety for more than a decade — first as the paper’s Washington correspondent, later from the New York office and for the past five years in Los Angeles.” Apparently they do not seem to teach research in Journalism at Columbia School of Journalism anymore. While in black & white you could say that the headline is true. And on the surface it has amassed $1.072 billion dollars and has made a lot of money for both Disney the company and their shareholders. But is it really fair to say that without taking into account for ticket prices and inflation?
A very quick check at boxofficmojo.com would reveal that this is in fact an incorrect headline. In fact Frozen is far from the #1 spot on the list. Of all films it lands at #109 on the list of all films. If you take out just the animated films on the list it ranks #16 (as of this writing it is just shy of passing Toy Story 2 and may pass it soon) the actual #1 animated film of all time is and doubtful will ever be passed is Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The list of top animated films adjusted for ticket price and inflation is
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarves*
- 1001 Dalmatians*
- The Lion King*
- Jungle Book*
- Sleeping Beauty*
- Shrek 2
- Finding Nemo*
- Lady and the Tramp*
- Toy Story 3
- Monsters Inc.*
- Toy Story 2*
*Notes films that have had multiple theatrical releases that have been added to the total money that the film has made.
To help put this in perspective the cost of a loaf of bread in 1939 cost .08¢ and in 2013 it cost $2.38 that is a pretty big difference. In movie ticket terms the average cost of going to the movies in 1939 was .23¢ and in 2013 the average cost was $8.13 so in simple terms it’s unfair to make a statement like McClintock made in her story for The Hollywood Reporter.
Some people will say that I shouldn’t count Snow White because of the many re-releases that the film had and that Frozen did it all that money in its first release. Fair question but you would also have to take into account that the film was released in 3-D that causes the ticket admission to go up even further. The industry estimate for Frozen gross in 3-D is 28% so using that percentage, of the $1,072,000,000 total gross you would then have to subtract $300,160,000 of that amount that would not count because of the films on the list only Toy Story 3 was released in 3-D on its initial release (Yes Lion King, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., and Toy Story 2 were re-released in 3-D) This would level the play field a bit for the other films even further. Of the films that have not been re-released Shrek 2 would be still beating Frozen easily with Shrek 2 adjusted gross at $593 million where as Frozen would only be at $398 million and would likely at this point in its release probably never catch up.
The point of all of this is that while I am not the biggest fan of Frozen the film, the bigger problem is that I really despise how people equate films that make money to being good. I am not knocking Frozen for its success I am knocking The Hollywood Reporter for poor journalistic reporting and traffic grabbing headline. It’s one thing to do a story on how much money that the film has made is a valid story. Making the headline that it’s the #1 all time animated film is incorrect and false. The thing that should be done is not release figures of how much money a film made but how many tickets were actually sold. That would provide a much clearer picture of what people really went to see. We have become too wrapped up in how much a movie makes today. Why does the public care so much about this. The studios are the only ones that it matters to. Does that fact that Frozen has made so much money it means that it’s good, no. Does the fact that mean that the 100th most successful film of 2013 was Her that only made $25 million an awful movie, of course not.
Money does not equal quality because some of the most beloved films ever released did poorly at the box office. Films like The Wizard of Oz, It’s A Wonderful Life, Blade Runner, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Office Space, Princess Bride, Shawshank Redemption were all box office disappointments when they were released but I bet that you remember them all. Here is a better way to look at it. In 1987 the same year that The Princess Bride was released the number one film of the year was……Three Men and a Baby. Which of those two films have you watched more that once? Having a discussion is what we all love to do. Having a discussion without taking the facts into consideration is not a fair conversation. If you are going to do a “news” story then please get the facts straight before you publish it. The Hollywood Reporter is not a blog and Pamela McClintock should know better.