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Why the James Bond franchise was made for the modern box office

Over the past weekend, Skyfall returned to the top of the box office and became the biggest hit in Sony Pictures’ history in the process. After five weekends, the Sam Mendes-directed action film had earned a franchise-high $261.8 million domestically. (For reference, the previous high-point was 2008’s Quantum of Solace, which grossed $168.4 million.)

It’s not often that a franchise this deep into its existence — 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the British spy’s first appearance on the silver screen — peaks at the box office. And in all reality, it’s only half accurate to call Skyfall the “peak.” Its record-setting gross does not account for inflation. (The series’ all-time high point was actually 1965’s Thunderball, which, according to BoxOfficeMojo, grossed a staggering $593.9 million when adjusted for inflation.)

Still, even accounting for inflation, Skyfall is already the fourth-highest-grossing Bond film ever, and its excellent performance both domestically and around the world reveals that the franchise is experiencing a major upswing. With a running worldwide total of $918 million — by far the highest total ever for a Bond film (Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale both topped out at $594 million) — and an opening in China still slated for early 2013, prognosticators expect Skyfall to become the first-ever billion-dollar Bond film. James Bond may be getting older, but Skyfall makes it clear that he’s still a major force to be reckoned with at the box office.

Most franchises don’t enjoy such longevity. It’s much more common for film series to start with gargantuan grosses and then face diminishing returns with every subsequent release. And yet, the James Bond series suddenly seems to be hitting its stride right now. Why is that? Because since its inception in the 1960s, the Bond franchise has been primed for success in today’s modern market. It seems to have been almost preternaturally constructed to succeed in 2012. The box office just had to catch up with Bond’s ahead-of-the-curve sensibilities. Here’s what I mean: READ FULL STORY

Box office report: 'Skyfall' returns to No. 1, becomes highest grossing film in Sony history; Gerard Butler's 'Playing for Keeps' flops

In the box-office lull before the arrival The Hobbit next weekend, Skyfall returned to the number-one spot at the box office, becoming the first film since How to Train Your Dragon to lead the chart in its fifth week. It also became the highest grossing Sony release of all time. Not too shabby, Mr. Bond.

Skyfall topped the domestic rankings with an estimated $11.0 million (down a slim 34 percent from last weekend), which brings its North American total to a stunning $261.1 million. It’s difficult to adequately express how incredible — and somewhat inexplicable — Skyfall‘s run has been. The former franchise high-point for the Bond series was Quantum of Solace, which grossed $168.4 million in 2008. Skyfall has obviously crushed that total, and it still has ample life left in its run. READ FULL STORY

Box office update: 'Skyfall' earns $3.1 million on Friday, which, sadly, is enough for first place

For the third straight weekend, the same five movies will take up the top five spots on the chart, though there’s been a switch at the very top.

As expected, Skyfall ruled the roost on Friday, kicking off what is shaping up to be the slowest weekend at the box office since the recent sad September frame, when the industry faced the lowest grosses in over a decade. The James Bond film took in $3.1 million on Friday, putting it on pace for a $10.5 million weekend and a first-place ranking — a rather remarkable feat considering Skyfall is currently in its fifth weekend and has spent the last three as a runner-up to The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2. READ FULL STORY

Best of 2012 (Behind the Scenes): Making James Bond's slinky opening credits for 'Skyfall'

Music video and advertising director Daniel Kleinman has been creating the complex and abstract opening credit sequences for the James Bond movies since 1995’s GoldenEye. He sat out the titles for 2008’s Quantum of Solace, but he’s not surprised to be returning for his sixth go ’round crafting the slinky, smoky credits for this year’s Skyfall, with Adele’s hit title song as his soundtrack.

“The way it’s set up by the producers, Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, it’s quite a family affair,” he says. “A lot of the same people get asked back onto the films on a regular basis. It makes it a nice project to do.” That loyalty cuts both ways: Kleinman’s credit sequence services are pretty much exclusive to the Bond franchise. “I’m not really a title sequence director per se,” he says. “I do it for James Bond because I was a fan when I was a kid, and I was always very taken with the Bond credits when I was at art school. Also, it’s James Bond. If one’s going to do any title or credit sequence at all, James Bond is the one to do.”

Here’s how he makes it happen. For more stories behind this year’s top TV and movie moments, click here for’s Best of 2012 (Behind the Scenes) coverage. READ FULL STORY

Box office preview: 'Skyfall' set to kick 'Playing for Keeps' to the curb

As theater owners buckle down and stockpile the popcorn in preparation for The Hobbit opening on Dec. 14, it’s another quiet week at the box office, as the only new wide release is a critically reviled soccer mom rom-com (say that five times fast) called Playing for Keeps, which seems destined for box office flopdom.

Skyfall, a five-week-old movie that hasn’t been in the top spot for the last three weekends, has the best shot at reclaiming the No. 1 slot. However, we might see any of the top four films below in first place — it’s that close. Here’s how the weekend may play out.

1. Skyfall – $10.5 million

The James Bond picture, which has led the weekday box office over the past two days (and will pass $250 million domestically today), seems like the likeliest contender for No. 1. A 35 to 40 percent drop would give the action film an $10.5 million weekend. READ FULL STORY

Best of 2012: 5 movies that stuck the landing

The Great Ending has become an unexpected casualty of Hollywood’s franchise era: Because a sequel is always strongly implied, the final moments of most big movies are now just temporary breaks in action, instead of definitive conclusions. But the movies on this list each left a mark, whether they ended with a bang or with a graceful coda. (One of them even managed to set the stage for a sequel and suggested the end of an emotional journey.) Here are our five favorite movie endings of 2012:

5. The Grey
“What? The film where Liam Neeson punches a wolf?” Well, yes and no. The most mismarketed movie of the year is actually a reflective examination of mortality — and it ends on a note that’s simultaneously ambiguous and fiercely life-affirming. READ FULL STORY

Box office report: Brad Pitt's 'Killing Them Softly' misfires with $7 million debut, 'F' CinemaScore


The post-Thanksgiving frame has always been a slow one, and this year was no exception. Two new releases entered theaters — including the Brad Pitt vehicle Killing Them Softly — and both were met with unenthusiastic responses. Among holdovers, the Top 10 movies fell by an average of 51 percent. Basically, not too much happened at the box office this week. In fact, the top six movies finished in the exact same spots as last week.

Atop the chart was The Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn – Part 2, which dropped 60 percent to $17.4 million, lifting its total to $254.6 million after three weekends. The $120 million Summit sequel is holding substantially better than its predecessor, Breaking Dawn – Part 1, which had earned $246.9 million at the same point in its run before finishing with $281.3 million domestically. Internationally, the franchise finale is getting a gigantic boost. The film earned an additional $48.4 million this weekend, bringing its overseas gross to $447.8 million and its worldwide total to $702.4 million. It’s headed to a franchise-high finish around $800 million. READ FULL STORY

Box office update: 'Breaking Dawn' leads Friday with $5.6M, 'Killing Them Softly' slapped with $2.5M and 'F' CinemaScore

Call it a turkey hangover. Friday grosses are (mostly) in, and, as expected, the box office is way down from the lucrative Thanksgiving frame.

The top of the chart looks just the same as it did last week. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 stayed in first place with $5.6 million, putting it on pace for a third weekend of $17 million, which would bring its total to $254 million. Skyfall and Lincoln were close behind, grossing $4.9 million and $4.0 million, respectively. Skyfall may walk away with about $16 million over the Friday-to-Sunday period, while Lincoln should earn about $14 million.

Life of Pi and Rise of the Guardians swapped the rankings they earned in their debuts last weekend — but they’ll likely switch again by the frame’s end. Life of Pi scored $3.3 million on Friday, and it may sail to $12 million by Sunday. Rise of the Guardians earned a bit less with $3.0 million, but thanks to strong family showings, the DreamWorks animation should reach about $13 million, which will bring its total to a discouraging $48 million.

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 – $5.6 million
2. Skyfall – $4.9 million
3. Lincoln – $4.0 million
4. Life of Pi – $3.3 million
5. Rise of the Guardians – $3.0 million

The Weinstein Co.’s Brad Pitt vehicle Killing Them Softly disappointed with just $2.5 million on its first day. The Andrew Dominik-directed crime drama will have to settle for about $7 million. Even more distressing is how poorly Killing is playing with moviegoers. The feature, which critics overwhelmingly like, earned an “F” CinemaScore — the same grade that audiences gave reviled found-footage entry The Devil Inside earlier this year.

Check back tomorrow for the full box office report, and follow me on Twitter for more box office musing.

Box office preview: With 'Killing' set to open 'Softly,' 'Twilight' and 'Skyfall' aim for No. 1

This weekend, The Weinstein Co. is releasing Killing Them Softly, the Andrew Dominik-directed crime drama starring Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini into 2,424 theaters. But the well-reviewed art piece will likely have trouble breaking out — especially in a crowded field full of holdovers that are still raking in big bucks since last weekend’s record-breaking Thanksgiving frame. Also entering theaters is the little-known horror film The Collection, which is hitting 1,403 locations.

Neither film poses a legitimate threat to The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, Skyfall, or Lincoln, all three of which will duke it out for the top spot.

Here’s how I think the box office may shake out over the Friday-to-Sunday period: READ FULL STORY

Best of 2012 (Behind the Scenes): When Daniel Craig's Bond meets Javier Bardem's Silva...

Bond villains have always flirted with homoeroticism. You could say it’s as much a part of of the franchise’s 50-year-old formula as all of the girls, gadgets, and glamor. Whether it’s Goldfinger aiming his laser at 007’s royal jewels, the coy cat-in-his-lap quips of Blofeld, or even Lotte Lenya’s butch villainess Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love, the Bond films have subtly toyed with a sexual subtext. But in the latest Bond installment, Skyfall, Javier Bardem pushes the gay envelope farther than it’s ever been pushed before. Here, in an article originally published before the film hit theaters, Bardem, director Sam Mendes, and Daniel Craig talk about the scene that had everyone talking — and laughing. For more stories behind this year’s top TV and movie moments, click here for’s Best of 2012: Behind the Scenes coverage.

The Spanish actor dons a blonde wig as the latest 007 nemesis, Silva — a cyberterrorist who has a complicated history with Bond’s boss at MI6, M (Judi Dench). And his first encounter with Daniel Craig’s license-to-kill agent is sure to get fans squirming in their seats. Which, according to Bardem, was exactly the point.

Asked if his character has an interest in Bond beyond just world domination, Bardem admits, “You could read it that way. That option was there in the script. The word that [director Sam Mendes] kept using was ‘uncomfortableness’. Beyond the sexuality, he wanted it to feel like you don’t know if Silva’s joking or not.”


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