Long Distance Box Office: Skyfall !

Anyone remember these? Since the Weekend Warrior has been spending much of the summer doing other things, we almost forgot one of our favorite new additions to the sorely-neglected Weekend Warrior blog and that’s our “Long Distance Box Office” analysis columns. We’re in the thick of festival season right now, but we’d like to get back on track by doing these once a week. We’ll see how it goes.

We’re going to kick things back off again with one of our most anticipated movies of the fall and that’s the 23rd James Bond movie Skyfall, being released by Sony Pictures on November 9, four years after the previous installment Quantum of Solace.

Daniel Craig is back in the role of James Bond 007, having been in two of the most successful movies of the franchise starting with 2006′s Casino Royale. Even though Quantum of Solace did relatively well, opening with $68 million and grossing $169.4 million domestically, it wasn’t received as well critically compared to Casino Royale. Frankly, we don’t think that will matter since it’s been four years since the movie and moviegoers tend to forgive and forget, especially when it comes to Bond. The fact that it’s also the 50th Anniversary of James Bond at the movies is something that will play very well for the fans of the previous Bonds as well as get newcomers excited about checking out the Bond franchise.

The latest installment is directed by Sam Mendes, an Academy Award-winning filmmaker, best known for dramatic fare like American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, as well as bigger movies like Jarhead and The Road to Perdition, the latter which co-starred… you guessed it… Daniel Craig! It’s actually somewhat shocking that Skyfall will only be Mendes’ sixth feature film since the world first became aware of him with the 1999 Oscar winner American Beauty, mainly because he’s been spending many years directing for the stage. Each of his movies have grossed substantially less than the previous one with neither of his last two movies grossing more than $25 million after opening in limited release.

Daniel Craig’s box office track record outside the Bond franchise has been slightly better, although it’s hit a couple of snags like 2011′s Cowboys & Aliens, his teaming with Harrison Ford for what was intended as a big summer blockbuster, barely grazing $100 million in the summer of ’11. A couple months later, the long-delayed thriller Dream House, co-starring his new wife Rachel Weisz, tanked, and David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo also brought in $100 million over the holidays, but just barely. Craig also played the main villain in Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin, which managed to pull in $77 million over the holidays. Now mind you, at least three of those were expected to do better, partially due to Craig’s presence, but that’s only one all-out bomb.

At the same time, Craig has solidified himself as the definitive James Bond for the 21st Century by having his likeness brought into a number of Activision video games including a reworking of the classic “GoldenEye” game (which used to feature Pierce Brosnan) and the upcoming “007 Legends” which has the Craig Bond transplanted into many classic Bond film locations.

While it may have seemed like a strange decision to get a prestigious filmmaker with little action experience like Mendes to helm a Bond movie, his involvement has helped the Bond franchise get much bigger name stars like Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem as the primary villain Silva, as well as getting Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes to take on a key role as one of Bond’s superiors. The rumors are that Fiennes will be replacing Dame Judi Dench who returns as M for her seventh (and supposedly last) movie in the franchise, and another interesting new addition is Ben Whishaw as Q, MI5′s gadgets expert who has been absent from the last couple movies. This popular character was played by Desmond Llewelyn for nearly thirty years until his death before John Cleese stepped in for Die Another Day. Q’s return is a welcome one for fans of the franchise wondering when it would return to some of what made Bond such a popular franchise for decades.

Things have changed since the introduction of James Bond to the screen and these days it has a lot more competition in the spy action genre. Before Casino Royale, Matt Damon’s The Bourne Identity changed how moviegoers viewed spies and action movies, which forced Bond to step up his game. Since the last Bond movie, Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol once again showed what can be done on a big scale with a spy action movie, so now Skyfall has to live up to that. Oddly, the “Bourne” franchise recently tried to pull a Bond by replacing the lead, switching Matt Damon for Jeremy Renner, and it didn’t work nearly as well.

The only real competition Skyfall has on November 9 is the second weekend of Robert Zemeckis’ Flight, starring Denzel Washington, and the limited release of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, starring Daniel Day Lewis, both which are targeting older audiences and males. The latter could take some of its audience, but it’s more likely that people will want to see the new Bond opening weekend, knowing there’ll be many opportunities to see Lincoln throughout awards season.

Skyfall is the first Bond movie released in IMAX which will also help with higher ticket prices and because of the excitement created by a four-year gap, we expect Skyfall will have the biggest opening of the James Bond franchise, surpassing the $67 opening of Quantum of Solace with something closer to between $72 and $75 million. Although it has the finale of “The Twilight Saga” nipping at its heels, that’s a movie predominantly geared towards women and it shouldn’t have too much of an effect on the movie’s legs as this should get a nice bump over Thanksgiving and the holidays. If the movie’s as good as it looks, we fully expect Skyfall to become the first James Bond installment that also crosses the $200 million mark.

We’ll be back next week with our look at the box office potential of the grand finale of “The Twilight Saga,” Breaking Dawn – Part 2.

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