This is the best chart I’ve seen all year, it’s a bit like the NameVoyager for movies. It has time along the x-axis and weekly box-office receipts along the y-axis, which means that box office grosses are reflected in long and wavy areas. Truly it’s a thing of beauty.
The chart is great in the print edition, but it’s even better online, where it goes all the way back to 1986. Just look at the longevity of Top Gun, from that year: no blockbuster behaves remotely like that any more. The turning point seems to be the summer of 1989, when the opening-weekend blockbuster as we know it today starts to make its mark: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Batman, Ghostbusters II. There are still long-runners after that point (Ghost, Titanic), but by the time we get to the present day, it’s all over: the graph is a series of spikes.
I do wish that clicking on any given film would break out the box-office numbers used to generate the chart rather than just link to a NYT review. And I also wish that the online version would include some of the information in the print version, like the fact that of the 100 top-grossing films of 2007, only six peaked in their third week or later; four of those six are nominated for Best Picture tonight. But this is a great achievement, and is a fantastic showcase for the abilities of the NYT’s graphics team.