Was Deep Throat The Most Profitable Movie Ever Made?

A recent documentary about the legendary '70s porn film Deep Throat includes the assertion that the movie was the most profitable film ever made. Why? Because it cost around $25,000 to make, and grossed over $600 million. Michael Hiltzik, writing for the LA Times, has been busy debunking that claim, first in an article that appeared February 24, and again in a follow-up article on March 10. He uses the technical term 'baloney' to describe the claim. He points out that a) the movie was financed by the mob, so any financial figures about it are suspect; and b) to have made that much "it would have had to sell tickets to enough customers to populate the entire United States one and a half times over" (given 1970s ticket prices). It would also have had to sell far more tickets than Star Wars ever sold. The makers of the Deep Throat documentary responded to Hiltzik, defending their claim (actually they end up claiming Deep Throat could have made far more than $600 million), but their defense reveals that they're basically pulling numbers out of thin air.

Entertainment Sex/Romance

Posted on Sun Mar 13, 2005


The *other* big suspicious thing was the fact that home video didn't exist back in the dim, dim past of 'Deep Throat', and thus those $600 million would have to have been earned in actual cinemas. 'Emmanuelle', which wasn't nearly as explicit, probably made more. As far as I remember the candidates for 'most profitable picture of all time' include 'The Blair Witch Project', 'American Graffiti' (accounting for inflation)... ah, this website is handy:

Lists 'Super Size Me', 'Kentucky Fried Movie' and something called 'Tarnation', which I've never heard of. 'ET' wasn't all that expensive, either, and made lots.
Posted by Ashley Pomeroy  on  Sun Mar 13, 2005  at  10:50 AM
...Documentaries are cheap to make...so if a $25,000 film even made $50,000 total, it earned 100% profit...or something like those figures. What the above website doesn't do is tell you what sort of a profit percentage these movies have. You've got to do the math on your own.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Sun Mar 13, 2005  at  12:49 PM
...Er...I guess I spoke too soon. I should have scrolled down a bit more.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Sun Mar 13, 2005  at  12:50 PM
Surely, we are not expected to swallow this baloney...
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Sun Mar 13, 2005  at  01:18 PM
It's got to be a gag...
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Sun Mar 13, 2005  at  01:19 PM
Sounds like a pretty big stretch to me... let's take a poll...
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Sun Mar 13, 2005  at  01:21 PM
Well, Hairy, I nominate you. Someone told me you liked taking polls...
Posted by Rod  in  the land of smarties.  on  Sun Mar 13, 2005  at  02:01 PM
I dunno. It's possible. I saw it seven times.
Posted by pepe nero  on  Sun Mar 13, 2005  at  06:28 PM
Still got it on VHS, but man, what lousy quality! True to the original, tho. I suppose that in the long run, it's really more important to film makers how much their bottom line improves relative to the times. I recently made a 205,100% profit from the sale of a book on eBay. That's because the book sold cost me about 10 cents, and I sold it for $202.10. But that didn't make me a rich man.
Posted by stork  in  the spiracles of space  on  Sun Mar 13, 2005  at  08:42 PM
I thought I'd heard that Blair Witch was the most profitable? Cost like, 15K to make, and sold gobs...
Posted by Bobcat  on  Sun Mar 13, 2005  at  09:57 PM
Have you seen "Deep Throat"?

In 1970s dollars, I'd guess that it cost more like $17.91 to make.

That means, in terms of return on investment, even if it only grossed a few million dollars, the profit margin was astronomical.
Posted by Big Gary C  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  01:32 AM
The 'the-numbers' site given above has very dodgy stats as they are unadjusted for inflation and therefore, well, wrong. The site http://www.filmsite.org/boxoffice.html has 2 lists - one adjusted for inflation, one not. It makes a *big* difference (Titanic - all-time biggest grosser, unadjusted - drops from first to sixth, and while Star Wars IV holds steady at second place the third-ranking movie in the unadjusted list - Shrek II - drops to 30th place in the adjusted value list).

Deep Throat ain't listed.
Posted by Paul in Prague  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  02:03 AM
Yes, no doubt "Deep Throat" turned a huge profit in terms of percentage, but that's not what the article is about. Whatever amount it actually grossed would certainly represent a large percentage of return on investment, but that isn't the point.

As the article points out, that is essentially impossible, especially given the relatively low price for movie tickets when it came out.

Again, we're talking about GROSS DOLLARS, not return on investment as expressed in percentage.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  02:04 AM
In the Netherlands the whole government went to see the movie to see if it was porn or artistical expression... At the end of the then prime minister Dries van Agt came with a typical dutch solution. "Yes the movie pornografical but was made in an artistic way. Since it is even more explicit then movies for 18 and over it can only be shown in theatres with less then 50 seats."
Wich immediately gave raise to lot
Posted by Unfairly Balanced  in  Earth  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  08:32 AM
...At the end of the movie the then...
Posted by Unfairly Balanced  in  Earth  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  08:33 AM
PS on this site more on deep throat (in dutch so use babelfish).

one quote:
"Internet Movie Database lagen de inkomsten beduidend lager: die houden het op 'theatrical rentals' in de VS ten belope van 20 miljoen dollar. "

IMDB think it was only 20 million.
Posted by Unfairly Balanced  in  Earth  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  08:38 AM
It's supposed to make the film look more profitable than it really was, obviously. It was popular, sure, but not so popular that fans were tearing merchandise off the shelves the instant it popped up and the manufacturers couldn't keep up with the demand, as was the case with Star Wars...
Posted by Laser Potato, an award-winning film about colon ca  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  08:49 AM
When dealing with IMDB keep in mind that they are
well known for inaccuracy.
Posted by Charybdis  in  Hell  on  Mon Mar 14, 2005  at  10:18 AM
Hey, there's even a full length ASCII version of Deep Throat online (Google for Deep ASCII) that fully captures the totally budgetary expediture of the original, check it out!
Posted by David  on  Tue Mar 15, 2005  at  12:15 AM
Most Profitable of the 1970s? Probably not.

Most Watchable of the 1970s? Maybe . . . But "Fangs" comes damn close.
Posted by DFStuckey  on  Tue Mar 15, 2005  at  11:01 PM
To compare 'most profitable' you need to define what the term will be based on, compose a mathematical formula for the comparative computations, add a second formula based on another defintion, spend months researching various data on the industry. OR, you can just make the cliam knwoing no one can disprove it. That said, I remember when 'Deep' was played at parties in the 70's. It was always a crappy copy but it was highly sought after. It was a novel and infamous movie back then...and very very boring.
Posted by jimmyjay  on  Fri Mar 18, 2005  at  08:40 PM
Maegan that's freakin unbelievable! You oughta know to look at the entire package and confirm delivery. If you're a girl, I'm gonna Deep Throat your brains out! If you're a guy, I'll let Sid do it (big 6"8 black guy - hope you really enjoy poles)
Posted by James  on  Sat Dec 17, 2005  at  02:38 PM
I live about 2 miles south of the Alladin Theater in Portland, where for OVER TEN YEARS, Deep Throat played continuously, repeatedly, and without competition. In this theater, the ONLY movie you could watch for a DECADE was Deep Throat. Now the screen has been taken down and bands play there. But if the dedicated theater thing happened anywhere else but here, then I believe the figures they present.
Posted by Yuki  on  Thu Sep 28, 2006  at  09:31 AM
I have seen that most movie makers lie about everything including what they made about as much as the mob. And some are also about as ruthless as the mob. So believing what any of them say is suspicious. The comment that the money would have to be made by ticket sales at the prices when it was made is total nonsense, because the claim that it has made the most money does no specify any time frame, and includes what it even makes today. To even put a time frame on a movie's income would be hard. Say, if a movie was made in the 1970s, and released on the last day of 1979, it would have made very little profit in the 70s, though in following years it could make millions. I bought a super eight of it, when I was a kid, and later a VCR tape of it, and it is now on DVD and probably on BluRay. The problem is that the porn industry is everywhere, and if you really start including things like the profit from porn web sites there could be lots of surprises. It is well known that there are many times more porn sites selling porn than any other type of movie site. Also, consumers pay a lot more to buy a porn movie than they would any other movie. So it is quite possible that it has made more money than any other movie. It is just that the conservative morons would really be offended if that happened 😊

BTW, the comment about the creation of the 49 seat movie theaters in the Netherlands really made me smile 😊
Posted by Denny Hayes  on  Thu Feb 15, 2007  at  12:48 PM
The most profitable movies of all time are E.T. and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Each made over 60 times the producers initial investment. If Deep Throat was made for $500,000 not $25,000 and grossed $60 million instead of $600 million it STILL blows away any competition for most profitable movie ever made.
Posted by jkd42  on  Sat Dec 11, 2010  at  02:03 PM
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