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Will ‘Spectre’ Fly Ahead of ‘Skyfall’ at the Global Box Office?

Will 'Spectre' Fly Ahead of 'Skyfall' at the Global Box Office?

With a first week seven-country gross of $80 million, including a record (unadjusted) of nearly $64 million in the UK/Ireland, the 24th official James Bond franchise release shows signs of potentially matching the enormous worldwide take for 2012’s “Skyfall.”

To put the British territory (as defined by Sony) number in context, the box office sales relative to their total population would equate to the equivalent of a $326 million full week gross in the US/Canada. That number puts it ahead ahead of domestic record holder  “Jurassic World” ($296 million) and also ahead of adjusted numbers for any other film. More impressive is that it comes in a mid-fall time slot without local school vacations providing any boost.

Unlike “Skyfall,” which had opened in nearly all major territories prior to the U.S. (Japan and Australia alone not earlier) “Spectre” is rolling out more slowly, including its US/Canada start this Thursday night. Most other territories will have opened by this weekend, but several major ones, including China, France, Japan, Korea, and Australia come later this month. This makes exact head to head comparisons and ultimate predictions far more tentative despite its great start in select countries.

“Skyfall” unadjusted (and adjusting is relevant for a franchise that goes back 53 years) stands as the biggest 007 film with $1.1 billion worldwide, with $304 million of that coming from the US/Canada. Adjusted it is the third best Bond ever, but by some distance the best by any calculation for any Bond film since their early days. That’s spectacular — it predates by 15 years this year’s other (and even bigger) franchise goldmine “Star Wars,” which including “The Force Awakens” notches 17 fewer efforts.
Grandparents who saw the early Bonds as teenagers taking their grandchildren to this one. In an era when franchises are the centerpiece of film production, the Bond films, though hardly the first long-running series (Hollywood’s list includes the Hardy Family, Dr. Kildare, Ma and Pa Kettle, Blondie, and Tarzan). It isn’t close to having the most entries: 48 Tora-San films from Japan double the output, but they came in a 39-year period (1969-1997) with the same star and mostly the same director. Tarzan was produced by multiple studios in different forms (beginning with silents); the authorized 29 features ran from 1932-70, 15 years less that Bond.
“Skyfall” ended up the fifth biggest domestic release of 2012, but was second worldwide (it fell $400 million behind “The Avengers”). This year has seen four films exceed “Skyfall” worldwide (led by “Jurassic World” at $1.7 billion), much because of growth in China and other rapidly growing markets. But the initial “Spectre” showings (other countries also have results close to or above “Skyfall”) show that three years later, “Spectre” might indeed have a shot at reaching that total.
US/Canada provided 28% of the “Skyfall” gross. The domestic release was aided by terrific reviews (Metascore of 81, the same as the current “The Martian” and “Bridge of Spies,” both bolstered by adult/older audience enthusiasm.) “Spectre” so far is only at the barely favorable 65 (“Crimson Peak” and “Everest” range). Bond films getting critical acclaim is a recent development: the early films were public, not elite, favorites, with the post-Sean Connery installments (with Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan) nabbed reviews ranging mainly from mildly favorable to mixed-negative. The business continued though and the series thrived.
The Bond series revitalized in the late 1990s with “Tomorrow Never Dies.” In fact, its star Pierce Brosnan has two of the top ten Bond domestic performers (“Tomorrow” in seventh place, 2002’s “Die Another Day” in sixth), and paved the way for most recent Bond Daniel Craig to thrive. His two before “Spectre” also place among the top ten— “Skyfall” again third, “Casino Royale” tenth. Sean Connery of course rules, with five (#1 Thunderball, #2 Goldfinger, #4 “You Only Live Twice,” #8 “From Russia With Love,” #9 “Diamond Are Forever”). Of his starrers, only the first, “Doctor No,” doesn’t rank among the best. Roger Moore has only #5 (“Moonraker”), while neither Timothy Dalton several nor George Lazenby’s single effort rank that highly.
But whatever other recent hits have achieved, opening a new film in a series that began 53 years ago— before star Daniel Craig or director Sam Mendes were born—this is an impressive feat indeed. The studio and production team not only recognized the tradition of the franchise but at the same time adapted it, not only in the way it was produced but marketed and released. (The producers’ deal with Sony to distribute the film in most of the world ends with “Spectre,” although their strong success since taking over from MGM-UA makes them a logical choice to continue; it could be Craig’s final outing.)
The James Bond series launched at a time when far fewer blockbusters were produced. In the decade before “Goldfinger,” the ten highest grossers were either high-priced, initially limited release road show presentations (“Ben-Hur,” “West Side Story”) or an occasional Disney production (“The Lady and the Tramp,” “Mary Poppins”). Most films—even hit films—fell into a range of grosses far narrower than what is seen today.
The Bond films broke new ground. After the modest success of the first two, “Goldfinger,” released in late 1964, grossed in the US the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $526 million— more than “The Dark Knight Rises” — mostly on its initial release. (Many of the big hits in years past were reissued without ever going to TV until much later.) Building on this, a year later, “Thunderball” was even bigger, adjusted to $623 million, a little behind “Jurassic World” and about the same as 2012’s “The Avengers.”

Read More: Ranking 22 Bond Films on Popularity and Critic’s Cred

The Bond films changed movie history. Apart from being the first non-American produced blockbusters (then, as now, they were British), they became “event” releases, very unusual for mainstream releases (other than road shows), much more along the lines of 1970s hits like “Jaws” and “Star Wars” (though more narrowly released initially). “Thunderball” opened initially in big cities on a 24-hour schedule, virtually unprecedented in film history, and records wherever it played initially.
Five-plus decades later, Bond is alive and well. But how far will “Spectre” go? (Reviews are strong so far.)
The great news is that the public clearly loves Daniel Craig in his fourth outing as Bond. New to the role nine years ago, “Casino Royale” (which opened most of the world including the US) did a solid, but much, much smaller $129 million its first two weeks. And that is by far the best barometer to measure its increased success so far. Ultimately including the US/Canada, “Royale” grossed $599 million, international, $167 million (2002 figures) with the domestic segment being a bit under 30% (a much smaller part than the past, but that’s mainly due to the big expansion of theaters around the world the past decade). “Quantum of Solace” followed in 2009, with its US/Canada gross of $168 million making up 29% of the worldwide total of $586 million.  “Die Another Day,” the final Pierce Brosnan entry, did a slight majority of its business from domestic revenues.
Can “Spectre” replicate the domestic “Skyfall” numbers? It certainly is helped being the first of the highly anticipated November-December releases holding industry hopes that after a rock-bottom October. It is actually nicely positioned to reach an older audience, though several films are competing for that audience, only longer-running “The Martian” and “The Bridge of Spies” are getting bigger numbers, and those opening in November aren’t close on paper to the appeal of “Lincoln,” “The Life of Pi” and “Silver Linings Playbook” all were in the market by Thanksgiving. But “Skyfall” led all of those through its fifth weekend (including returning to #1 the weekend after Thanksgiving). It stayed on over 1,000 screens through Christmas.
It’s tough with the mid-December and later releases this year and a more mixed critical reaction seeing that length of run for “Spectre.” Whether it opens as strongly, and the three-year gap from the last one with ticket prices about 4% higher, may have more to do with the sometimes weaker 2015 state of the market. Still, anything over $75 million would be reasonable. That would make it seventh best for the year, but also the strongest since all the way back in July (“Minions” at $115 million).
Curiously, “Spectre” competes this weekend against another relic from today’s grandparents earlier days: “The Peanuts Movie” revives the classic comic characters that in the 1960s were featured in several TV specials before their movie debut in 1969’s “A Boy Named Charlie Brown.” On paper, totally different audience appeals, but who knows? Maybe it presents more competition for “Spectre” than what “Skyfall” had against other new wide opener its first week.

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