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Filmism.net Dispatch August 7, 2011

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What other kind of business venture returns a US$125 million investment eight times over in a matter of mere days? We all hear stories about how expensive it is to make films and how all but a select few will sink without a trace and lose their investors' shirts. But people keep making them hoping for the brass ring that is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which this week passed the $1b mark after only two weeks in release.

And while it generates a round of awe among the film press, let's keep it all in perspective. The first film to cross the magic mark was Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003. Movie tickets in the US cost an average of $6.03, whereas today they're closer to $8. In Australia we get stung even worse, routinely paying upwards of $17. Tickets to films that cracked $1b like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland cost as much as a third to a half more again because of the 3D.

And even if movie attendance is shrinking as a proportion of total media consumption, there are more members within it. There were 6.315 billion people in the world when Return of the King came out. This year our species will give birth to it's seven billionth member. Extrapolate that to people in the moviegoing age group in the developed world.

So let's keep these behemoths in perspective and remember that if we want films to inspire us and contribute to society and culture instead of just stock prices, we need good stories more than billion dollar hauls.

George Lucas might have kept this in mind, finally leaving Star Wars alone for enough blessed minutes to give us his take on the struggles of African American airmen during World War II in Red Tails. See the (Star Wars-esque) trailer here.

I also watched a classic decade-defining film for the first time recently, Valley Girl – a time capsule on celluloid.

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