Fifty years after James Bond first made his big screen debut, the suave secret service agent has still got it.
After charming international moviegoers, 007 made his way to domestic theaters this weekend and scored the biggest opening ever for the franchise -- not adjusting for inflation. "Skyfall," the 23rd film featuring Bond, started off with a massive $87.8 million, according to an estimate from distributor Sony Pictures.
The film starring Daniel Craig easily beat the debut of the last Bond film, 2008's "Quantum of Solace," which launched with $67.5 million. The positive news comes after the movie's difficult journey to the big screen: Production was held up for several years as rights holder MGM fell into bankruptcy and had to find a distributor and additional financier in Sony.
"Skyfall" earned better reviews than any Bond film released in the last four decades, and those who saw it this weekend loved it too. The picture's heavily older male audience -- 75% of whom were over the age of 25 -- assigned the film an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
"Skyfall" raked in an additional $89 million this past weekend from foreign countries, raising its overall tally abroad to $428.6 million. Not surprisingly, the film featuring a British protagonist has performed best in the United Kingdom, where it has so far sold $117.5 million worth of tickets and is the fourth highest-grossing movie of all time in the region.
With its current worldwide total of $518.6 million, "Skyfall" is on pace to make up for its expensive marketing costs and $200 million production budget -- 75% of which was financed by MGM, and Sony paid for the rest. The movie will also out-gross 2006's "Casino Royale," which is the biggest Bond to date with its worldwide total of $594 million.
No new films hit theaters nationwide this weekend, as studios were fearful of Bond's dominance at the box office. That left room for recent debuts to expand their audiences, like the 3-D animated family film "Wreck-It Ralph." After claiming the No. 1 position last weekend, the film saw its ticket sales fall only 33% to $33.1 million during its second weekend of release. The movie's total now stands at $93.7 million.
In limited release, Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" got off to an excellent start. Playing in 11 locations, the film starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president of the United States brought in $900,000. That amounts to a strong per-theater average of $81,818 -- the third-highest per-location average of the year behind "The Master" and "Moonrise Kingdom."
The well-reviewed movie, which is already generating Academy Awards buzz, also received an A CinemaScore, thanks largely in part to older filmgoers. About 67% of those who saw the picture this weekend were over the age of 35.
The film, which was financed by DreamWorks Studios for $65 million, will expand to roughly 1,700 cinemas nationwide next weekend. Walt Disney Studios, which is distributing the film, is confident that the movie will appeal to a broad audience despite being a period drama.
“As much as it does have a focus on the president and is a recounting of history, more than anything it’s a political intrigue thriller,” said Dave Hollis, Disney’s executive vice president of distribution.