Marvel is still celebrating as Avengers: Endgame finally managed to top James Cameron's Avatar to become the highest-grossing movie of all time over the weekend. While it's true that both of those movies grossed nearly $2.8 billion, in raw dollars at the box office, when it comes to the number of tickets they sold, both movies still pale in comparison to the 1939 classic Gone With the Wind, which remains the biggest movie of all time by a wide margin.
Director Sidney Howard's Gone With the Wind has grossed $402.3 million at the box office over the years, thanks to several re-releases internationally and domestically. Yet, when looking at ticket sales, the movie sold 215 million tickets in the U.S. alone. That remains, handily, a record in that particular category. Movies such as Avengers: Endgame and Avatar relied very heavily on international markets to achieve their records, whereas Gone With the Wind only made $201 million overseas. So, in that respect, there is a clear cut winner.
The eye-opening moment comes when looking at the box office numbers adjusted for inflation. Gone With the Wind would have grossed $3.44 billion in adjusted dollars with ticket prices in today's marketplace. In 2018, the average cost of a movie ticket was $9.11, which would have been a small fortune for your average moviegoer in 1939. Avengers: Endgame, meanwhile, has managed to bring in $2.79 billion, whereas Avatar made $2.789 billion during its run nearly a decade ago. To that point, even adjusting for inflation in the last decade, Avatar would still wind up beating Avengers: Endgame. But, most of the time, box office reports focus on unadjusted grosses.
There are a lot of factors to consider. Gone With the Wind, were it released today, would surely get a much larger international release. However, that would be no guaranteed of box office in today's climate. The Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh classic clocks in at a blistering 3 hours and 58 minutes. Remember when everyone was trying to time out bathroom breaks for Avengers: Endgame because its running time was just over 3 hours? A movie like that would have an incredibly difficult time competing in the modern marketplace. It would, more than likely, be split up into a miniseries on HBO or Netflix and would probably never get a theatrical release of any kind.
It's also worth considering Gone With the Wind in a modern social context. The movie features a very whitewashed version of history. Many fresh-eyed critics are quick to point out that the movie essentially sweeps the issue of slavery under the rug. It's problematic for many. Understandably so. With that being said, it's not as simple as boiling everything down to one number in determining the most successful movie of all time. But Gone With the Wind certainly has earned its place on that list somewhere. This news comes to us from Guiness World Records.