Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 11-05-12

Judi Dench as M in “Skyfall

Judi Dench as M in “Skyfall

Daniel Craig posing on the red carpet

Daniel Craig posing on the red carpet

Naomie Harris, Daniel Craig, and Bérénice Marlohe

Naomie Harris, Daniel Craig, and Bérénice Marlohe

Big Bond: It’s a safe bet that “Skyfall’s” going to open big, but the real question is whether it will be the biggest Bond film ever.

Not surprisingly, that record’s presently held by “Quantum of Solace,” the last episode in the Eon Productions' franchise that began with 1963’s “Dr. No.”

“Quantum,” the second episode starring Daniel Craig as 007, tops the Bond boxoffice list with $168.4 million in domestic theatres, up slightly from Craig’s Bond debut, 2006’s “Casino Royale” with $167.4 million. That, in turn, was up nicely from 2002’s “Die Another Day,” Pierce Brosnan’s last appearance as Bond, with $160.9 million.

If “Skyfall’s” going to set records it’s got to beat “Quantum.” “Quantum” opened to $67.5 million Nov. 14, 2008, which also makes it the biggest Bond opening.

“Skyfall’s” been tracking solidly in double digits, several points better than Disney’s 3D animated hit “Wreck–It Ralph” was when it opened last weekend to about $49.1 million. “Ralph,” of course, was targeted to families, so it sold a lot of lower priced kids tickets. “Skyfall” is tracking best with 25-plus males and next best with under-25 males, who will pay full price to see it.

It’s always difficult comparing grosses for today’s films with grosses from the past because average ticket prices are higher now. In 2008, the average national ticket price in the U.S. was $7.18. Today it’s $8.02, which certainly works in favor of “Skyfall.”

On the other hand, adjusting past grosses for ticket price inflation doesn’t completely resolve the problem because it doesn’t take other changes in the marketplace into account – such as today’s wider release patterns that generate ever bigger openings and the fact that an increasing number of movies are competing now for moviegoers’ time and money and that can erode films’ staying power in theatres.

A number of other factors will also affect how big the new Bond turns out to be. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, there is the so-called “cabin fever” factor to consider. This reflects the public’s need to get out of the house and escape for some entertainment after having been forced to stay indoors by major storms or other natural disasters. With Sandy having devastated a wide area of the Northeast, especially in New York and New Jersey, it’s possible that people will want to get out to see a movie next weekend – and “Skyfall” is the weekend’s only new wide release.

Distribution executives were speculating last weekend that “cabin fever” contributed to the very strong openings for Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph” with $49.1 million and Paramount’s “Flight” with about $25 million. They also suggested that well heated movie theatres were attractive to many people in the cold Northeast because their home heating systems weren’t operating due to storm damage or interrupted deliveries of home heating oil.

Access to gasoline was still very limited last weekend throughout New York and New Jersey, which could have kept people away from the multiplexes if they had to drive too far to get there. Hopefully, by next weekend gas supplies in the Northeast are back to normal or, at least, much closer to normal. That could give “Skyfall” an extra shot in the boxoffice arm.

Also working in “Skyfall’s” favor is that it’s a milestone film in Hollywood’s longest running movie franchise ever. It’s the 23rd episode in the Eon Productions series and is the episode that celebrates the series' 50th anniversary. Actually, it’s the 25th Bond movie if you count the two Bonds – the original 1967 “Casino Royale,” from Columbia Pictures, and Warner Bros.’ “Never Say Never Again” in 1983 — that weren’t produced by Eon.

Given the Bond franchise’s blockbuster success in recent years it’s easy to forget that it went through some difficult times in the mid-to-late '80s when Roger Moore was succeeded as Bond by Timothy Dalton. Moore’s last appearance came in 1985’s “A View to a Kill,” which grossed only $50.3 million domestically. That was down significantly from 1983’s $67.9 million for “Octopussy” starring Moore and was also down from 1983’s non-Eon Productions episode “Never Say Never Again’s” $55.5 million with Sean Connery returning as Bond.

Dalton took over as Bond in 1987’s “The Living Daylights,” which grossed $51.2 million domestically, a slight improvement over Moore in “View.” Dalton’s second and last appearance as Bond in 1989’s “License to Kill” showed how troubled the franchise was then, grossing only $34.7 million domestically.

The series snapped back to life with 1995’s “Goldeneye,” the first of four episodes to star Pierce Brosnan as Bond and to win broader appeal by marketing to younger moviegoers. “Goldeneye’s” $106.4 million domestic gross put 007 in solid blockbuster territory with what was, at that point, the biggest domestic gross ever for a Bond film.

Since then it’s been up up and away for 007 – with 1997’s “Tomorrow Never Dies” ($125.3 million), 1999’s “The World is Not Enough” ($126.9 million) and 2002’s “Die Another Day” ($160.9 million), all starring Brosnan, and 2006’s “Casino Royale” ($167.4 million) and 2008’s “Quantum of Solace” ($168.4 million), both starring Craig.

It’s a measure of Hollywood’s confidence in 007’s boxoffice power today that there won’t be any new wide releases competing with “Skyfall” at the multiplexes next weekend.

The PG-13 rated action adventure from MGM, Danjaq and Eon Productions and distributed by Sony’s Columbia Pictures is directed by Sam Mendes. Having won the best directing Oscar in 2000 for “American Beauty,” which also was that year’s best picture winner, Mendes is the first Oscar winning director to helm a Bond film.

“Skyfall’s” storyline involves Bond’s loyalty to “M,” played for the seventh time by Judi Dench. M’s past threatens MI6, provoking a crisis that only Bond can resolve. Javier Bardem as the villain Silva was previously aligned with “M,” but now wants to settle old scores.

Ben Whishaw plays “Q,” a character missing from the Bond films since 2002’s “Die Another Day” with John Cleese in that role. Desmond Llewelyn, who famously played “Q” since 1964’s “Goldfinger,” made his last appearance in 1999’s “The World Is Not Enough.” Llewelyn died Dec. 10, 1999 at the age of 85.

And, as always, there will be new Bond Girls to watch for — Naomie Harris and Berenice Marlohe as Eve and Severine — between the action set pieces.

Bottom line: James Bond will be back atop the boxoffice chart next weekend.