“Skyfall,” the latest James Bond film and the third starring Daniel Craig, led the U.S. and Canadian box office with a franchise-record $87.8 million in ticket sales for Sony Corp. (6758) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.
Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” from the director’s DreamWorks Studios and distributor Walt Disney Co. (DIS:US), drew $900,000 in a limited opening, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in an e-mailed statement. The movie, a leading Oscar contender, generated an average $81,818 per location and expands nationwide next weekend.
The latest Bond surpassed the $67.5 million opening weekend record for the 007 series set by “Quantum of Solace” in 2008. “Skyfall” benefited from positive reviews, as did “Lincoln,” and anticipation built from $323 million in overseas sales since Oct. 26 prior to its U.S. and Canadian debut.
“They’ve done an amazing job keeping the brand strong and relevant,” Gitesh Pandya, editor of BoxOfficeGuru.com in New York, said in a telephone interview. “It’s the oldest brand out there in the movie industry so the fact that 50 years later they’re doing record business shows that they’ve handled the property very well.”
Pandya expects the installment to gross more than $900 million globally in theaters.
In the film, Bond is presumed dead after being shot accidentally by an MI6 colleague. After a surprise return, he battles a new villain, played by Javier Bardem, who has kidnapped agency chief M, portrayed by Judi Dench, and stolen a list of Western intelligence agents.
The movie cost $200 million to produce, according to estimates from researcher Box Office Mojo. In addition there are marketing expenses, which vary by project and can total as much as a film’s production budget.
Studios typically split ticket revenue with U.S. theaters about 50-50, receiving a larger share of sales the first weekend and a smaller share in subsequent weeks.
Craig, who took over the role for 2006’s “Casino Royale,” has won critical praise in addition to box-office success. “Skyfall” had a 93 percent positive rating from critics, based on reviews, according to Rottentomatoes.com.
“With just a little tug of his shirt cuff, Daniel Craig unseats Sean Connery as cinema’s best James Bond,” Bloomberg Muse critic Greg Evans wrote.
“Skyfall” is the 23rd Bond production from Eon Productions, which holds the rights to the spy novels. In addition, Box Office Mojo and some other researchers include the “Never Say Never Again,” which was released by Warner Bros. in 1983 and starred Connery, bringing the total to 24.
Bond is the fifth-largest movie franchise of all time. Its previous films have averaged $204.7 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales when adjusted for inflation, according to Box Office Mojo. The films, based on the 007 character created by British spy novelist Ian Fleming, started in 1963 with “Dr. No,” starring Sean Connery. Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan have also played the role.
In the domestic market, the previous highest-grossing 007 was 2008’s “Quantum of Solace,” which brought in $168.5 million. Adjusted for inflation, 1965’s “Thunderball” would have sold almost $594 million in tickets in the U.S., the most of any Bond and more than all movies so far this year save “Marvel’s The Avengers,” Box Office Mojo data show.
Early release outside the U.S. has become more common with the growth of the international box office. The October release of Bond was planned to take advantage of midterm school breaks in the U.K. and France, when people are more likely to go to the movies, Jeff Blake, vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, said in a December 2011 interview.
Other studios have adopted similar strategies.
Last year, Viacom Inc. (VIAB:US)’s Paramount Pictures released “The Adventures of Tintin” in Europe in late October. The film didn’t reach U.S. audiences until Dec. 21.
“It’s becoming more common for action films to open first overseas and then later in the U.S.,” Pandya said. “The brand itself is incredibly popular around the world so the international numbers have been beyond expectations.”
Worldwide, the highest-grossing Bond was “Casino Royale,” the first one starring Craig, which generated $594.2 million in global ticket sales in 2006.
“Lincoln,” which was shown in limited release in 11 theaters, is listed as an Oscar best-picture and best-director contender on the website Goldderby.com. Spielberg’s previous historical dramas explored the trial after a slave rebellion in “Amistad,” and the Holocaust in “Schindler’s List.” This time he chronicles the 16th president’s drive to end slavery permanently in the U.S. with the passage of the 13th Amendment in early 1865. The film cost about $65 million to make.
For Spielberg, the project is the result of a lifelong fascination with Abraham Lincoln. He told reporters last month he began pitching the role to star Daniel Day-Lewis eight years ago, and worked with playwright Tony Kushner for almost a decade to develop the script. The action focuses on Lincoln as a family man and as a politician, as he badgered, bribed and intimidated members of the House of Representatives.
Among returning films, Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph” fell to second place from first with $33 million. It stars John C. Reilly as the voice of a video game character who grows weary of playing the villain in a vintage arcade game.
“Flight,” featuring Denzel Washington as a pilot who averts a major airline disaster, fell to third from second with $15.1 million for Paramount. “Argo,” about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, was fourth with $6.7 million in sales for Time Warner Inc. (TWX:US)’s Warner Bros. after five weeks.
“Taken 2,” from News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox, maintained fifth place with $4 million in sales.
Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 29 percent to $162.6 million from the year-earlier period, Hollywood.com said. Domestic film sales this year have risen 4 percent to $9.09 billion, with attendance up 3 percent.
The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales from Nov. 9 and 10, and estimates for today.
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