Ahhh, the ’80s, a beloved decade full of incredible movies, but let’s see what were the most popular films at the North American box office based on ticket sales, as this is the fairest way to compare how movies fared against each other. All data was obtained from ‘The Numbers’ website.
Quick Nerdy Financial Facts:
So to help you understand the ticket sales numbers more clearly, a film’s budget is relevant to the number of sold tickets required for a movie to be profitable. But, if we take an average, if a movie has sold 15 million tickets in the North American market, then I’d consider that movie to have done pretty good! (unless it’s a huge budget picture) If it has managed 25 million tickets, then it’s a bona fide massive hit. 35 million, and its party poppers all round. Above this, it’s in the upper realms of movie history forever.
To give some perspective, after weeks of crunching data for this, The Number 1 film of the ’80s sold over 121 million tickets ( I won’t tell you what that is, read on to find out), Star Wars (1977) on it’s initial run and re-releases has sold over 164 million tickets!! amazing, Titanic (1998) only managed 128 million. But Gone With The Wind (1939), over all it’s releases has sold over 340 million tickets! That is a record which will never be beaten! Imagine having gross points on that bad boy!
SIDE NOTE: Why is the North American market so important? Well, before the ’90’s, It was way the biggest market in terms of screens showing movies per day, The UK, for instance, used to have a one screen cinema playing per town, so limited numbers of tickets sold based on seats available, rather than demand (In the ’80s, it was normal to have to queue for atleast an hour outside the cinema [imagine 1000+ people queuing for a 700 seater theatre), and then find out it was now sold out, so you went home with no film). From the ’90s onwards, multi-screen cinemas (10 screens plus) were built showing the latest hits over many screens, which meant more tickets sold each day compared to the old days.