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Does Not Compute. Just Kidding, It Computes.

December 10, 2009
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I can’t stand that the expression “it’s like comparing apples and oranges” means “whatever two things we are talking about cannot be compared.”  First of all, any two things can be compared in some regard. The Holocaust and garbanzo beans are of this planet, for example.  (I didn’t say the comparison had to be great, just that it can be made.)

But more importantly, apples and oranges are particularly well suited to side-by-side comparison.  Let’s say you have one piece of each fruit, and you only want to eat one of them; how do you decide which one to eat?

It depends on what you’re in the mood for, right?  If you’re in the mood for something crunchy, you’d select the apple because oranges are not crunchy and apples are.  If you’re in the mood for citrus, you’d select the orange because apples aren’t citrus and oranges are.  Not only is it possible to compare apples and oranges, it is easy to envision a scenario where you must compare them.  Unless you’re a total fucking idiot, this comparison will not be difficult to conduct.

The movie Titanic cost about $200,000,000 to make.  It was 194 minutes long, meaning that every minute cost $1,030,927.87 to produce, and  every second of the movie cost $17,182.13.

The movie Clerks cost $27,575 to make.  At 92 minutes long, Clerks cost $299.18 per minute and $4.99 a second.

This means that the entire budget of Clerks was equivalent to the cost of 1.6 seconds of Titanic.

Titanic made $600,788,188 domestic gross, so it made ~$3.00 for every dollar spent.  Worldwide, Titanic has earned $1,848,813,795, returning $9.24 on the dollar.

Clerks made $3,151,000 in the United States, so for every dollar spent to make the film, it earned $114.27.  I could not find its worldwide gross.

If the cost of Clerks were a unit of measure, Titanic would be 7,252.94 Clerkses.

The juxtaposition of these figures is not meant to imply that Clerks was a better investment than Titanic.   I don’t believe that’s true; low budget films rarely pay off, and Titanic was a guaranteed blockbuster.  I am in no rush to draw inferences; I just like seeing the numbers side by side.

There are a few situations where I would condone using the “apples and oranges” phrase, and they’re all related to art.  Shakespeare contemplated comparing “thee” to “a summer’s day”.  I encourage literature students to write essays declaring the sonnet’s premise an untenable “apples and oranges” proposition.  Better yet, refuse to write an essay.  Stick to your guns.

How does it feel to be on my own like a rolling stone?  Nice try, Bob.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. JoJo permalink
    December 10, 2009 2:13 am

    aristotle said ‘being’ was not a genus, by which he implied that two things could not be similar insofar as they both existed.

    take that, all those people who go around saying existence is a quality any two entities may share and in virtue of which they can be subsumed under a category.

    yeah, you heard me.

  2. Barry permalink*
    December 10, 2009 2:19 am

    Oh yeah? How big was Aristotle’s opening weekend box office?

    QED, bitch.

    • JoJo permalink
      December 10, 2009 2:32 am

      not only did they not have box offices or weekends back in aristotle’s day, but there were no openings, either. the universe was one solid blob, a plenum, if you will, with every cosmic nook and cranny occupied by infinitely dense Being. openings were invented later. by jews. or the liberal media. or something.

      • David permalink
        December 10, 2009 10:05 am

        No weekends?!

  3. McDonough permalink
    December 10, 2009 11:18 am

    How about the cost of Avatar? I don’t do math but 161 minutes at around $500 million.

    I bet it turns out $2.00 on the dollar.

    • Barry permalink*
      December 10, 2009 11:30 am

      Damn, that’s a lot of scratch.

  4. Jonathan permalink
    December 11, 2009 3:40 am

    One thing you have to keep in mind is that studios keep 50% of domestic and 40% of foreign box office. They consider a movie a success if they break even. The profit comes from what happens after, with DVD, TV, etc. That is where the real money is. The saying in Hollywood is that theatrical is just an advertisement for the DVD.

    I just got home from a press screening of Avatar. I signed a waver saying that I can’t discuss it till Monday, and I plan on honoring that, but I will tell you this much: I loved it. Whether or not it is a fiscally responsible movie is something we will know shortly.

    The following is a link to the film catalogue. The numbers in the upper left hand corner represents all of the films currently available for distribution at film markets world wide. If you click on the number that says 4500 and look at the dates these movies were completed, you will see that most of them are a few years old. This is because film markets are a last resort after all other avenues to distribution have failed. It you want the total number of films currently available you have to multiply the 4500 number by three or maybe even four. Nobody knows the exact number.

    http://www.thefilmcatalogue.com/catalog/

    These are the world’s low budget films. Most of them will never get any type of distribution, not even straight to DVD. Most of them will never make a dime. They represent a lot of money thrown into a big black hole.

    I have attended a few film markets, just for fun. There is a lot of desperation, a lot of people competing for the attention of just a few people. A lot of deluded rich people with a gamblers mentality, holding up films like Paranormal Activity and saying, “These guys did it, and so I am certain to sell my film and make millions!”

    Anyway, Barry, my math isn’t as good as yours is. I’d love to read your analysis.

    Paranormal Activity was made for around 10,000 and made over 100 Million domestic. It just opened overseas and is doing well.

    New Moon was made for 50 Million and has made 258 million, 573 when you factor in overseas.

    2012 was made for 230 million and has made 150 million domestic, over 660 million when you factor in overseas. 20% of what the studio gets goes to the director.

    So, if you had the money, or if I did for that matter, and you or I wanted to become an investor, would it be wiser to play craps on a bunch of small movies and hope one makes it, or lump a large sum in one big one?

  5. Barry permalink*
    December 13, 2009 7:46 pm

    Bob Dylan’s Christmas album isn’t very good. Sorry. It had to be said.

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