The AP has put out another inane article…

The AP has put out another inane article quoting statistics out of context, this time about Avatar:

No. 1 for the third-straight weekend, 20th Century Fox’s “Avatar” raised its domestic total to $352.1 million after just 17 days. The film added $133 million overseas to lift its international haul to $670 million, for a worldwide gross of $1.02 billion.

. . .

“Avatar” was Cameron’s first film since 1997’s “Titanic,” the biggest modern blockbuster with $1.8 billion worldwide.

Wow, Avatar is already halfway to beating Titanic, isn’t it? Except that Titanic grossed $1.8 billion 1997 dollars. Adjusted for inflation, Titanic took in $2.41 billion 2008 dollars (numbers aren’t available for 2009 just yet), putting Avatar much farther behind.

Of course, using raw numbers, un-adjusted for inflation suits the industry just fine because makes doing something like beating Titanic easier with every year that passes. One day a Land Before Time sequel will gross more than $1.8 billion, but we’ll probably also be ordering off the McDonalds’ $10 menu when we’re feeling cheap.

To give the AP credit, though, they do point out another way that this metric is broken:

“Avatar” has had a price advantage over those other billion-dollar movies. About 75 percent of its domestic business has come from theaters showing it in digital 3-D presentation, those tickets typically costing a few dollars more than admissions for the 2-D version.

So, we count an ever growing number in order to make today always seem better than the past instead of counting something relatively fixed like per-capita ticket sales. Okay, fine.

I was going to let this pass until I saw this same article linked to from Slashdot, with the tag “weakdollar” attached. Sure enough, examining exchange rates from January 1998 (two weeks after the release of Titanic) and January 2010 (three weeks after the release of Avatar), you’ll find the Euro trading 31% higher against the dollar.

Every Euro spent to see Titanic added $1.11 to the film’s worldwide gross. Every Euro spent to see Avatar adds $1.46 to the film’s worldwide gross.

Inflation, higher ticket prices, and a weak dollar have the film on a virtual railroad to depose Titanic.

And don’t even start talking about Blu-ray revenues vs VHS/DVD revenues. It’s not even fair.