The inflation argument is valid, but only to a point. The argument that people have far more "other options" today is also very valid.
Again, if you'd like to know which is "more valid" check out the OP's list. It's dominated by movies from the last 10-12 years. The reason? Because the "inflation argument" has a far, far greater impact than the "other options" argument, or any other argument.
|When Gone With the Wind came out? You had to go to the movie theatre if you wanted to see it *at all*. It also came out during World War 2, when there really wasn't much else to do for fun. For the 2+ years that it was in the theatres, the only competition that it had was a bunch of movies that I doubt many people have ever heard of.
That said, movies have always had to compete with other forms of entertainment. The people of 1939 didn't just lie in bed staring at their ceilings. Sure, they didn't have many of the forms of entertainment that *we* enjoy today, but they didn't know that they were missing anything; they had full lives anyways.
That's why the top grossers list *doesn't* have a bunch of movies from the 20s, 30s, 40s, etc., when people supposedly had nothing better to do. Gone With the Wind is the *only* film from that era on the list, right? The only one even close. It sticks out for a reason--because it sold a ton of tickets.
Finally, as for its competition... this is what Wikipedia has to say about the movies in 1939:
Movie historians and film buffs often look back on 1939 as "the greatest year in film history". Hollywood was at the height of its Golden Age, and this particular year saw the release of an unusually large number of exceptional movies, many of which have been honored as all-time classics, when multitudes of other films of the era have been largely forgotten.
I read that on Wikipedia already, and looked at the actually movies that came out in 1939. Which movies from 1939 do you consider exceptional and big box office draws?. More importantly, Gone With the Wind did most of its box office in 1940 and 1941. What was so big other than Gone With the Wind over the course of those 2 years?
You're missing the point.
What Gone With the Wind did was exceptional, even for its own time. Saying that its success is accountable to its era overlooks the fact that no other movie from its era did the same thing. Saying that people at that time had no other entertainment available is false, as is saying that Gone With the Wind had no competition.
Like I/Wikipedia said, 1939 was actually a pretty big year for movies. If your point is that, well, 70+ years later not too many of those films are still all that popular, I'll grant that--it's hard for me to argue about the popularity of various movies in the 1930s, because I'm guessing that neither you nor I were alive at the time.
But look, you didn't address it in your first reply, so here's another chance: if 1930s/40s movies had some sort of advantage (people had nothing better to do) that balances out inflation--they're both "very valid" arguments--then why is the top grossing list covered in movies from the mid-to-late 90s and the 2000s? Shouldn't it be covered in those early era films?
No, you're missing the point. You're also contradicting yourself. Also, your tone is coming across as a tad condescending. I don't appreciate that.
Gone With the Wind is a classic. I'm not arguing against that. The only movies that did well in that era, aside from Gone With the Wind, were Disney movies. There was no significant competition.
To your second statement "if your point is that, well, 70+ years later not too many of those films are still popular" - that's actually not my point at all. A lot of those films became more popular over time. A lot of the films on the AFI's top 100 list - the same people who claim 1939 was such a great year for movies - bombed at the box office. People didn't go to see them. Film critics love classics, so they lavish praise on these movies. If these movies were so "exceptional", why didn't people go to see them? Many of these movies actually had disastrous, cut up/shortened versions that were released in theatres. A movie that people call great today was not the same movie that was released at the time. Citizen Kane - which is supposedly the "best film of all time" actually lost money in theatres, due to a poorly handled release. Poorly handled theatrical releases were the norm at the time. Revisionist film critic history states that Citizen Kane was the best film of all time, but it wasn't even good enough to win best picture in its own time.
As for your last question - "why isn't the top grossing list covered in those early era films" - When you ask this, you're proving my point. Here's the contradiction. On one hand, you say "1939 was a pretty big year for movies", but on the other hand, you point on that none of these movies grossed well. So there's your answer - It's not covered in films from that era because there weren't any other popular, grown-up films that did well. The other top grossing movies from 1939-1942 were Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Bambi - all animated films, as previously stated - and it just so happens that they're *all* in the top 50 on the inflation adjusted list.
Since we're going in circles, I'll state my point. I think a lot of people are directing hate towards Avatar and trying to tear it down simply because it's popular. For some reason, people feel the need to do that with anything that's popular. If you released Avatar in an era when the only other movies were either shortened versions that bomb in the box office or Disney movies, or if you play in it theatres for up to 4 years in some countries, as happened with Gone With the Wind, while limiting people's ability to see it at home, it will gross more, even inflation adjusted. Even if you ignore the era argument, I will state that I believe that the following - Avatar will do at least $600 million, if not $700 million in U.S. box office. It needs $1.5 billion to bet the all-time "inflation adjusted" numbers (I'm ignoring worldwide, because the inflation rates are more arbitrary, but assume the ratios are the same) If you let it run in theatres for several years, like GWTW, and there was no other way to see it (no home theatre, no piracy, etc.), Avatar would clear that number. It's opinion, and we'll never know. All of this relates to my core point - which isn't that Avatar is "better" - it's that there are too many other factors at play to simplistically compare movies from different eras using a simple inflation adjusted number. A simple inflation adjusted number isn't any more fair than comparing total (non-adjusted) box office gross.