I was looking today at the BFI's Ultimate Film Chart, the all-time top 100 films based on UK cinema admissions estimates. Quite a few unexpected entries on there. Like, did you know that the fifth most watched film in UK cinema history is Spring in Park Lane?
I got to wondering, is The Sound of Music's 30 million seats sold as impressive as the 28 million seats sold for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, given that the UK population grew significantly in the 27 years between the latter film and the former? What proportion of the UK population attended these films?
So, I plotted seats sold and UK population on the same graph. The x axis is films (in chronological order), and the y axis is 000s of people and 000s of seats sold.
The three big peaks, in chronological order, are Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (59.1% of the population); Gone with the Wind (an impressive 73.2%); and The Sound of Music (55.5%). Of course, those proportions assume each person only attended once, which is plainly flawed, but still the trend is clear. In terms of proportional attendance, the golden age of cinema is far behind us.