The Fast-Changing Economics of the Movie Blockbuster
Jul 8, 2015


“Titanic” played in theaters around the world for more than three months before it became, in March of 1998, the first film to gross more than $1 billion at the global box office. Last month, “Jurassic World” achieved the same distinction in a mere 13 days, shattering a previous record of 17 days set only in April by “Furious 7.”

When did the $1 billion blockbuster become the new normal?

It used to indicate a milestone, the arrival of a kind of tentpole entertainment that said something, positive or not, about the cultural zeitgeist. In the decade after “Titanic,” only three movies hit this mark, but since 2008 Hollywood has pumped out 17 films that grossed $1 billion or more — three just this season.

Obviously, the economics of blockbusters have changed. The rise of higher-priced 3D or IMAX tickets and the growth of international film markets, particularly in China, explain in part why the list of highest-grossing films of all time is so heavily weighted toward recent movies.