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RICK MACLEAN: Numbers don’t lie. Yeah, right

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - CP Photo

The story pretends there is no such thing as inflation; the bitter reality about value of money

Go to the movie The Incredibles 2, by all means. Beautiful Daughter and two of our three grandchildren – the other one is four months old – went and loved it.

If cartoons aren’t your thing, there’s always Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom, or as I like to call it Jurassic Park: The Monsters Strike Back, Again.

Or maybe The Book Club – spoiler alert, no cartoons, no T-Rex running amok – is more your speed.

Whatever your choice, you won’t be alone. Incredibles 2 pulled in more than $350 million in its first two weeks. Jurassic Park grabbed over $150 million in one week. Book Club earned over $64 million in six weeks.

Big bucks.

And recent headlines will tell you Avatar and Titanic, the brain children of Canadian James Cameron, are the top two earners in the history of moviedom, with Titanic earning more than $2 billion and Avatar earning nearly $3 billion.

You can look it up. The story appeared just about everywhere recently.

“In many cases, motion pictures have become events, multi-million dollar spectacles that involve red carpets, press junkets and marketing strategies that entice viewers to open their wallets just so they can be a part of the hype,” the story trumped on website after website.

“Click through to see the all-time top 40 money-making movies, as determined by Box Office Mojo,” it urged, offering the full list, complete with photos, stats and the year each movie was released.

“Numbers are not adjusted for inflation,” it added.

And there it is.

Translation: This story is utter nonsense. Useless. And that fact it ran speaks to a distressing level of laziness by the reporter and editor who ever let it escape a newsroom laptop. Never mind all the sites that ran it.

The story pretends there is no such thing as inflation, you know, the bitter reality that $1 in 1950 is not worth nearly that much today.

Consider this.

Gone With The Wind was released on Dec. 15, 1939. People wanting to see the G-rated, four-hour long classic had to pay 23 cents to get in, according to theatlantic.com. A ticket to Avatar in 2009 came in at $10.50. See the problem? If a million people went to both, their earnings would be entirely different.

GWTW earned $400,176,459 world-wide in lifetime gross, according to boxofficemojo.com – the source for the top 40 list mentioned above. Now Google ‘Aier cost of living calculator.’ Punch in the movie’s earnings, and ask the calculator to tell you how much that is in today’s dollars.

It’s $2.522 billion. So much for that top 40 list.

Big deal, you say. It’s just the movies. Chill out.

Fair enough. But consider this example. “Justin Trudeau’s February trip to India cost $1.5M, documents show’ said a recent news story.

Wow, that’s a lot! Or is it?

Lavish, said the political opposition, eager to convince voters Trudeau is a spoiled rich kid on a pleasure junket, at our expense. Don’t vote for that guy.

But deeper down in the story it’s noted PM Stephen Harper also went to India, in 2009. The cost - $1.4 million. In today’s dollars that’s $1.62 million.

Yeah, the opposition didn’t mention that. You see, correcting for inflation, to let voters compare apples to apples, instead of apples to elephants, wouldn’t manipulate voters. Like you.

And no, the story didn’t do it either. Neither did the headline.

- Rick MacLean is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.

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