It’s not what you think
The most viewed movie of all time is not what you think it is. When I ask most people, their answers vary. Guesses include Avatar, Titanic, one of the Avengers films, a Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or maybe a Jurassic World one. But those suppositions are not even close…especially if you think about the question. What is the most viewed movie of all time?
It’s not the highest grossing. Highest grossing does not mean most viewed.
Some of the most watched movies include Grease, Back to the Future, Mary Poppins, Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Goonies, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Jaws. But when we factor in Gross and adjust for ticket price inflation, most people have no clue.
Take the pivotal year 1939. Gone With the Wind, Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Of Mice and Men were just some of the movies released. Gone With the Wind is closing in on $200 million in gross sales since its release. Mr. Smith has reached over $9.6 million. But remember, the average price for a theater ticket that year was only .23 cents.
A through the decades look at prices show these averages:
|Year||Average Cost Per Ticket in U.S.|
When we factor in 3D movies, the cost per ticket is even more. Although movies like Avatar and Hateful Eight might be bringing in more money in today’s dollars, it’s very likely their viewership could be much less than top-viewed movies of yesteryear. A side note: In select movie theaters across America, Hateful Eight was presented in 70-mm format with prices exceeding $20 per ticket.
So then, if we adjust the box office numbers for inflation, is the most viewed movie of all time Gone With The Wind or Wizard of Oz? Actually, over the years more people bought tickets to see Gone With the Wind and Sound of Music to see these movies in a theater than any other films ever, but this doesn’t mean they are the most viewed.
Elvis Presley fans might be interested to know that between 1956 and 1972, he made 33 movies, and in all but one he took the starring role. If adjusted for inflation, Elvis’s first movie Love Me Tender would realize $133.3 million in theater sales. His 1957 hit, Jailhouse Rock would equate to $121.4 million. Loving You would be $115 million. Compare those to today’s (July 09, 2018) movies such as Kingsman the Golden Circle ($100M), Ant Man and Wasp ($72M so far), The Shape of Water ($64M), Tomb Raider ($57M), or Den of Thieves ($45M).
But these are only the theater receipts. A theater is not the only place to view a film. In 1977, VHS arrived, allowing people to watch and rewatch films in the comfort of their own homes. Since then DVD, Blu-ray, streaming and a multitude of other avenues continue to develop.
So what is the high viewed movie of all time?
The highest viewed movie in history is Jesus.
When the film was originally released and distributed by Warner Brothers in 1979, it didn’t do too well, losing $2-million at the box office. But in 1981, Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, created the Jesus Film Project. His organization translated the film to Tagalog and then released it on VHS (relatively new format at the time that was just beginning to take off). The film has since been translated to 1600 languages and has been distributed to billions of people. No other film even has over 1000 translations.
And no other film has been smuggled into countries as much Jesus. Millions of Chinese (through the Cultural Revolution), Cubans, and even North Koreans have seen this film. The Jesus Film Project has successfully distributed for free to people’s homes throughout the world. It has been a popular movie shown at community church gatherings, youth camps and on television during the Christmas season.
Estimates reveal that almost 4-Billion people have now seen the movie. Over time the film has received HD, Blue Ray and other makeovers for updated releases. It is also available free on YouTube.