To give the impending Smackdown some context we're looking at the year 1973. Here's Glenn on tickets sold...
1973 was like the end of a box-office era. While year-end charts weren’t suffocated with superheroes, CGI natural disasters, and dystopian visions of futuristic societies for a little while yet, but 1973 was as far as I can tell the last year to not have a single now-traditional effects-driven film in the top ten hits of the year. Just one year later in 1974 the end-of-year charts would include the one-two punch The Towering Inferno and Earthquake (plus Airport '75), and 1975 essentially ushered in the modern era of the blockbuster with Jaws and since then it's been a steady increase.
Here is what the top ten films of 1973 looked like.
01 THE STING $156m
02 THE EXORCIST $128m
03 AMERICAN GRAFFITI $96.3m
04 PAPILLON $53.3
05 THE WAY WE WERE $45m
06 MAGNUM FORCE $39.7
07 LAST TANGO IN PARIS $36.1
08 LIVE AND LET DIE $35.3m
09 ROBIN HOOD $32m
10 PAPER MOON $30.9m
Just look at those films and let them sink in for a moment.
The runaway hit film of 1973 was a period-set heist movie. Then there was a religious horror film (always popular with audiences, but rarely to this extent), a nostalgic indie featuring mostly unknowns, a romance about class and marxism, a European X-rated erotic drama, a Disney kids cartoon and a black-and-white comedy set during the Great Depression. Only one franchise film (the weird Blaxploitation-themed James Bond entry Live and Let Die) is on the list, and not a single spaceship or flowing cape amongst them.
It’s cliché and frankly rather boring to decry the so-called death of movies for adults in favour of Hollywood’s constant churn of male-centric fanboy action films. I think it misses the point in many ways, not least of which that it is predominantly adults that are making Man of Steel, Fast & Furious 6 and Star Trek Into Darkness the colossal hits that they are rather than just the teenage boys that they once may have been.
Still, it’s fascinating to look at this list and compare to it today’s. It seems crazy to realise the likes of Battle of the Planet of the Apes (the fourth and worst sequel), Soylent Green and Westworld were all beaten at the box office rather handily by Paper Moon, but let’s not pretend that the kids and their comic book and Young Adult adaptations are the ones to blame for the disparity of 1973’s Oscar best picture being no. 1 of the year and 2013’s (12 Years a Slave) ranking at no. 62 beneath adult-targeted films like Last Vegas, A Good Day to Die Hard and Now You See Me.
For what it’s worth, the top film at the box office 41 years ago was Enter the Dragon which was released not even a whole week after the death of its now iconic star Bruce Lee. It held the number one spot for four weekends.