Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Skyfall's Big Box Office: Why James Bond Has Never Bombed

Skyfall's record-setting work at the weekend box office? Business as usual.

Through 50 years of 007 films, Ian Fleming's dapper, deadly spy has starred in zero box-office duds.

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"There's never been a full-on disaster," says BoxOffice.com editor Phil Contrino.
This includes the Bond films that fall outside the formal Bond canon, such as the 1967 spoof Casino Royale, as well as the Bond films that aren't especially well-regarded.
"There's a myth that On Her Majesty's Secret Service was a box-office failure," James Chapman, a UK-based film professor and author of License to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films, said in an email. "It wasn't."

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Indeed, even if the 1969 film is one of the lower-grossing Bond films, actor George Lazenby's one-and-done turn still was one of the bigger hits of its time.

The same can't be said for Jason X, Star Trek: Insurrection or the other bombs occasionally detonated by Hollywood's most-prolific franchises.

According to The-Numbers.com's Bruce Nash, you don't release so many hits over so many years by so many different filmmakers and starring so many different leading men, from Sean Connery to Skyfall's Daniel Craig, without getting lucky.

"At some point, you would think they would hit Austin Powers territory," the Hollywood analyst says. "They have been fortunate enough to not make a really terrible film."

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 The secret, per Chapman, is in the formula: Like Coca-Cola, it's been perfected.
"The producers know their audience and what their audience expects," he said.
 And as the multiple Coca-Cola variations on store shelves attest, the formula's been tweaked, too.

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"They have to refresh the formula but can't depart too far from it—otherwise it ceases to be a Bond film," Chapman said.

To Nash, the Bond film's very Britishness is another key to the franchise's box-office success, especially in the land of the breakaway colonialists.

"There's a love in America of this aspect of British culture, the institutions," Nash says.

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Right on cue, U.S. moviegoers (read: men over the age of 25) made Skyfall their new No. 1 movie this weekend. The film's take of $87.8 million exceeded expectations, as well as the domestic starts of all previous Bond films. Worldwide, the movie has already grossed nearly $430 million since opening overseas two weeks ago.

Beyond the numbers, Contrino says the critically acclaimed Skyfall, the first new Bond in four years, may "breathe new life into the franchise."

Considering the movies' already-spotless track record, that should really shake—and stir—the competition.

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