Top 12 Film Industry Stories of 2012: #9
By Tim Briody
January 3, 2013

I think I might be too cool to be seen with you.

As is stated on this very website numerous times, we are a site that likes to focus on box office. Over the last 12 years, we've provided hundreds of top-notch articles that have forecasted and analyzed the millions of dollars that moviegoers spend each week. The dirty little secret for us box office tracking enthusiasts is that it all comes down to patterns. They're not terribly obvious at first glance but there are lots of patterns that help us track week to week box office performance, and even day to day performance, as we've shown in our latest Twelve Days of Box Office series.

But where patterns really come in handy is with sequels and franchises. Past performance is generally indicative of future results, give or take a few million either way. Based on past performances from the Twilight film, it's not an especially ground-breaking prediction to say that Breaking Dawn, Part 2 was going to do well, perhaps a little better than Breaking Dawn, Part 1 (it has) nor is it hard-hitting analysis to say that the majority of viewers of the Twilight franchise have terrible taste in movies (they do). The Harry Potter franchise was equally textbook, with Deathly Hallows, Part II becoming the highest grosser by a large margin due to it being the finale of the most successful franchise, well, ever. Sequels, though sometimes tiresome to watch, make our work around here just a little easier than having to predict and analyze the performance of a one-off film or hopeful franchise starter.

Which brings us to the James Bond franchise. Commercially reignited with the Pierce Brosnan films in the mid-'90s, they had been reliable if not spectacular performers, with each more successful than the last ($106 million, $125 million, $126 million and $160 million respectively). When Brosnan passed the 007 role onto Daniel Craig and the franchise was rebooted with a more thuggish than suave Bond, the results were similar to the performance of Die Another Day. 2006's Casino Royale earned $167 million and 2008's Quantum of Solace essentially matched that with $169 million.

While Quantum of Solace exploded out of the gate with $67.5 million, it was not very well received by audiences and fell off quickly, causing it to earn only $2 million more than Casino Royale, despite a $27 million head start on opening weekend.

Still, patterns. The wheelhouse had been established, if you will. Even with four years between films, it was not really a Nate Silver-esque call to say that Skyfall would likely top Quantum of Solace's franchise opening weekend record. Tracking and awareness were high, but most expected Skyfall would top Quantum of Solace's final total by a few million, largely thanks to IMAX showings, general ticket price inflation and the fact that James Bond 23 was better reviewed than James Bond 22. This is just how the game works.

As of this writing, Skyfall has earned $289.6 million domestically and is the fourth highest-grossing film of 2012

So much for patterns, I guess.

This sort of thing should not happen. It's one of the most established and historic franchises in the history of film. There's a solid pattern of box office history to it over the last 17 years. If anything strange were to happen with Skyfall, it would be that you'd expect the box office to go *down* due to multiple factors working against it. The four year delay between films, the bankruptcy of MGM delaying production by several months and the negative reception of Quantum of Solace (a title I've now typed so often those words have completely lost all meaning) that had some questioning whether Craig was right for the Bond role are all things that easily could have contributed to Skyfall underperforming the recent history of the Bond franchise. Add in a scaled back budget (a mere $200 million reported negative cost) and you had a much better chance of things going wrong than you'd think.

Instead, you've got a film that is going to crack $300 million in North American box office and also just crossed $1 billion in box office worldwide, something that has only happened 13 times previously.

To call Skyfall a success is a massive understatement, and what the franchise has accomplished in its 23rd outing is one of the most shocking box office performances and stories of 2012.