I'm going to make a post like this every once in a while to try to demonstrate how, even when we're given numbers as proof, it doesn't necessarily mean anything. This might seem like a "non-tech topic" but I don't think it is. Technology is all about data and its important that people dealing with technology know how to interpret the data they are given.
Anyway, as almost everyone knows the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight" set a box office record by making $155 Million at the box office beating out the previous record holder Spider-Man 3 by about $4 Million dollars.
The way this was covered it looked like the culmination of several records broken...
'Dark Knight' Sets Record for Midnight Debut
'Dark Knight' sets one-day box office record
'Dark Knight' sets opening weekend box office record
But here's the thing, its all the same record. In fact, if you look at the numbers Dark Knight actually under performed against Spider-Man 3 on Saturday and Sunday.
So all three records were a result of the initial surge of midnight showings.
Not only that, when you take into account the fact that Dark Knight was in 114 more theaters you find Dark Knight was under Spider-Man 3 by over 4.5% in terms of revenue per theater.
Then we get to this from the above quoted article...
Factoring in higher admission prices, "Spider-Man 3" may have sold slightly more tickets than "The Dark Knight."
At 2007's average price of $6.88, "Spider-Man 3" sold 21.96 million tickets over opening weekend. Media By Numbers estimates today's average movie prices at $7.08, which means "The Dark Knight" would have sold 21.94 million tickets.
So really it might not have outsold Spider-Man 3 at all.
Don't get the wrong idea here, my intent isn't to lessen Dark Knight's accomplishment which is still impressive. What I am trying to do is show why you shouldn't trust numbers without context. Anyone can massage things to make it look the way they want it to.
Like with almost everything else in life, context is everything.
Addendum: For the record the estimates were significantly off for Dark Knight. Though Saturday was close (the eventual number was $47,650,240) Sunday was off by millions (eventual total being $43,596,151). Anyway, the point above still stands because the numbers that were available at the time are what is relevant to how people reacted to them but I thought I'd put this just to make sure everyone was properly informed.
2nd Addendum: For my follow up to this post (featuring me eating my words) please go here