Top 12 Film Industry Stories of 2008: #8: Bond Reclaims Spy Throne

By David Mumpower

January 9, 2009

I wonder if some days he wishes he just had a nice job as a banker.

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One of the most humbling experiences for any successful human being is to recognize significant need for improvement during a self-evaluation. Such a situation occurred with the Broccoli Family.

For those of you unfamiliar with the history of James Bond, the back story is this. Fledgling producer Albert Romolo Broccoli used money he had made shooting government war films to start a theatrical adaptation of Ian Fleming's most famous character. Beginning with Dr. No in 1963, Broccoli and his business associate, Harry Saltzman, were the caretakers of the Bond franchise. Saltzman, who had originally acquired the rights to Bond movies, sold his 50% stake to United Artists in 1975. From that point forward, all major decisions about the Bond franchise have been made by a Broccoli.

A changing of the guard occurred in the mid-1990s. Albert Broccoli, known as Cubby to his friends and family, succumbed to heart failure at the age of 82. A seamless turnover in the stewardship of the Bond franchise occurred. Broccoli's third wife, Dana Wilson, had been with him since before the genesis of the Bond films. Together, they had a daughter, Barbara, and Cubby had been the caregiver to Dana's son, Michael, as well. With Cubby's death, the younger generation of Broccolis was thrust into the limelight. This duo had been raised on movie sets and watched the careers of Sean Connery and Roger Moore explode thanks to the magic of everyone's favorite British spy. So, this was truly a job they had been prepped to handle their entire life. In fact, Michael Wilson had been an executive producer on Bond movies going all the way back to Moonraker, while Barbara Broccoli was generally credited as being the decision maker in the casting of Pierce Brosnan. The problem the duo faced was that their golden egg was cracked.


The venerable James Bond franchise's success speaks for itself. Until the most recent Harry Potter film's release, Bond has stood out as the most financially lucrative franchise in box office history. What was rare about these spy thrillers is that they did better worldwide than they had done in North America, a rare feat for movies of the 1960s-1980s. Exemplifying this point, the first ten Bond movies earned somewhere between $16.1 million (Dr. No) and $63.6 million (Thunderball) in North America. Each and every one of those titles starting with Dr. No ($59.6 million) earned at least double their domestic total internationally.

Consider that the least successful Bond titles after Dr. No were On Her Majesty's Secret Service (understandably) and The Man with the Golden Gun (I cannot explain this one's lackluster showing). The George Lazenby title brought in $22.8 million domestically while Roger Moore's secret Bond outing managed only $21.0 million. These numbers may seem small but when you consider that the average ticket price at the time of these two releases were $1.50 and $1.89, they're both $80+ million earners in terms of 2009 ticket pricing. That's good but not great. What is remarkable here is that Lazenby's film earned $82.0 million while Moore's accrued $97.6 million worldwide. Bond films earn at least double and sometimes even a factor of four more with international receipts factored in. That's why they are so lucrative as movie properties.

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