The $1 Billion Gross

As of August 2016, about 4 500 major studio movies were made since 2010. Only 19 of them grossed over $1 billion at the worldwide Box Office. So let’s see exactly what these 19 films got right shall we.


Here’s the famous list of 19 movies. All this info was gathered from Box Office Mojo, The Numbers, Wikipedia, and other sources.

Movies Released From 2010 That Grossed Over $1 bn At The Box Office Gross ($bn) MPAA Rating
1.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens $2,068.2 PG-13
2.  Jurassic World $1,670.4 PG-13
3.  Marvel’s The Avengers $1,519.6 PG-13
4.  Furious 7 $1,516.0 PG-13
5.  Avengers: Age of Ultron $1,405.4 PG-13
6.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 $1,341.5 PG-13
7.  Frozen $1,276.5 PG
8.  Iron Man 3 $1,215.4 PG-13
9.  Minions $1,159.4 PG
10.  Captain America: Civil War $1,152.8 PG-13
11.  Transformers: Dark of the Moon $1,123.8 PG-13
12.  Skyfall $1,108.6 PG-13
13.  Transformers: Age of Extinction $1,104.1 PG-13
14.  The Dark Knight Rises $1,084.9 PG-13
15.  Toy Story 3 $1,067.0 G
16.  Pirates of the Caribbean: Stranger Tides $1,045.7 PG-13
17.  Alice in Wonderland (2010) $1,025.5 PG
18.  Zootopia $1,023.6 PG
19.  The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey $1,021.1 PG-13

Every movie that grossed $1bn or more was either a PG-13, PG, or G rated movie. No R-rated or NC-17 made the list. Additionally every G or PG rated movie that grossed $1bn or more had a running time (movie length) less than 2 hours long. While every PG-13 movie was longer than 2 hours. Note: all the PG-13 films were live action films and not animation / cartoons.


There’s a reason Disney (Buena Vista) is dominating the below list, and I believe it’s mostly to do with the fun, light-hearted, family-friendly tone of their films.


It seems the most financially successful movies are those that feature lively color grading with lots of light and daytime scenes. Many people may find this point rather odd, but the  numbers don’t lie; the less daytime scenes there are in a movie the less likely it is to hit the $1bn mark. Period.


More than half of the movies that grossing over $1bn were Disney / Buena Vista films. There seems to be a tie-in between this and the point above about the general mood and feel of their films. Perhaps this explains why Disney does so well (think Avengers) while Warner Bros not so much (Batman vs Superman).


The best time to release a movie is either in summer (1st Friday of May to 1st Monday of September), or the holiday period (1st Friday of November to the New Year’s week or weekend).


Season Gross (in billions)
Holiday $14,812
Fall $7,309
Summer $26,217
Spring $9,192
Winter $6,240

Perhaps this is because every single movie that made over $1bn at the box office, with the exception of Alice In Wonderland, Zootopia, & Furious 7, was released either in the holiday period or in summer. In fact, all the Marvel cinematic universe movies were released on exactly the same day (in different years of course), that day being the 1st Friday of May which is also the 1st day of Summer. Noteworthy also is that the only 3 movies to gross $2bn (non-inflation adjusted), namely Avatar, Titanic, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, were all released on either December 18 or 19. James Cameron’s 2 big movies, Avatar & Titanic, where both released on the 3rd Friday of December.


Based on the above infographic, if a movie was released in Winter or Fall, it had zero chance of grossing $1bn.

As shown below, only 2 of the movies in the top 10 list of all time highest grossing movies were written by the same person, James Cameron. Is it coincidence also that they were directed by their writer too? I wonder. Perhaps there’s something about letting the creative mind behind a story take their vision from paper to screen. Below is the list of the top 10 highest grossing movies of all time, adjusted for inflation.

Title Gross Year
1.  Gone with the Wind $3,640,000,000 1939
2.  Avatar $3,196,000,000 2009
3.  *Titanic $3,026,000,000 1997
4.  Star Wars $2,989,000,000 1977
5.  The Sound of Music $2,503,000,000 1965
6.  E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial $2,314,000,000 1982
7.  The Ten Commandments $2,193,000,000 1956
8.  Doctor Zhivago $2,193,000,000 1965
9.  Jaws $2,145,000,000 1975
10.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens $2,103,000,000 2015

Since 1980, 4 movies have made it into the top 10 all time list, namely E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Titanic, Avatar, & Star Wars: The Force Awakens. These films were released 15, 12, & 6 years apart respectively. Based on this trajectory, we can assume the next big movie will be hitting the big screen sometime in 2018 or 2019.

* According to the 2015 edition of the Guinness World Records, the adjusted total for Titanic stood at $2,516,000,000 but excluded a re-release in 2012 which added a further $343,550,770 to the total. Plus Another $102,000,000 adjusted total.[30]

In conclusion, I guess it can accurately be stated that apart from G & PG movies, if your movie is A) less than 2 hours long or B) not a PG-13 or C) released in either Winter or Fall, then clearly you can forget about making $1bn at the box office. Sorry Deadpool 2.



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