Awhile back there was an article that made the rounds on the internet that pointed out that Tim Burton’s Batman outsold The Dark Knight Rises in regards to number of tickets. The math used in the argument was based on the average ticket prices listed on Box Office Mojo, which come from the MPAA.
The only problem with the average ticket price calculation is that it seems to include 3D movie ticket prices to get to the average. Of course, The Dark Knight Rises was only released in 2D, so its average ticket price is likely lower than what would be arrived at by any average ticket price calculation that included 3D.
This got us wondering if there might be a way to mathematically answer one of the most often asked box office questions when it comes to The Dark Knight Rises. What would The Dark Knight Rises have made if it had been released in 3D? Would a 3D Dark Knight Rises have out-grossed The Avengers?
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of detailed data available when it comes to the effect of 3D on the box office. However, we came across enough data to make an attempt at an estimate. While movie ticket prices vary widely across the country, we checked several markets and saw a trend of 3D ticket prices usually running $4 higher.
Depending on what the base price was in the markets we checked, the price difference as a percentage ranged from a low of 28.6% to a high of 37.2%. We averaged these two numbers and came up with 32.9% as an estimate on the percentage effect of 3D ticket prices.
We then looked around to see what percentage of box office sales were accounted for by 3D showings for movies released in 3D. Once again, the number varied greatly, but we saw a trend developing of around 50%. In fact, we even discovered that 52% of The Avengers opening weekend ticket sales came from higher-priced 3D tickets.
So, if you take The Dark Knight Rises U.S. box office gross of $439,476,000 and multiple it by 52%, then you come up with $228,527,520 (which leaves $210,948,480 as the remaining 48%). If we then take this $228,527,520 and multiply it by 132.9%, we come up with $303,713,074. If we then add the $303,713,074 to the $210,948,480, we come up with $511,252,794.
So, while no calculation is perfect given the limited data available, $511,671,154 is probably a pretty good estimate of where The Dark Knight Rises would be now at the box office if it was released in 3D. Essentially, Warner Bros. left $72,195,154 on the table by not releasing The Dark Knight Rises in 3D.
While the $511,671,154 estimate for a Dark Knight Rises released in 3D is still less than the $621,623,219 that The Avengers has brought in, it would move The Dark Knight Rises all the way up to #5 on the all time domestic box office grosses list. And of course, The Dark Knight Rises box office was also affected by the Aurora shootings. If not for that tragic event, a Dark Knight Rises released in 3D likely could have run pretty close to The Avengers box office.