LOS ANGELES — Adults turned up at the multiplex in droves this weekend, as older moviegoers propelled both James Bond and Abraham Lincoln to box office riches.
After charming international moviegoers, the latest 007 film, “Skyfall,” made its way to domestic theaters and scored the biggest opening ever for the secret-agent franchise - not adjusting for inflation. The 23rd film featuring Bond started off with a massive $87.8 million, according to an estimate from distributor Sony Pictures.
About 75 percent of those who turned up to see Daniel Craig’s take on Bond were over age 25. Adults were also interested in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” which got off to a strong start in limited release. The film, which is generating strong Academy Awards talk, took in $900,000 from 11 theaters in major cities, and 67 percent of its crowd was over age 35.
The robust opening for “Skyfall” 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, according to Rotten Tomatoes, and those who saw it this weekend loved it too. The picture’s audience - 60 percent of which was male - assigned the film an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
“I think that most guys throughout the world still fantasize about being the Bond character, and women are very drawn to him,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s distribution president. “But Daniel Craig really knocked it out of the park. There’s a richness to his acting, and people find him to be so real that it really works well in today’s world.”
“Skyfall” raked in an additional $89 million this 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 there.
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 percent of which was financed by MGM, and the rest by Sony. The movie will out-gross 2006’s “Casino Royale,” which is the biggest Bond to date, with a worldwide total of $594 million.
No other new films hit theaters nationwide this weekend, as studios were fearful of Bond’s dominance. That left room for recent debuts to expand their audiences, including 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 percent to $33.1 million during its second weekend. The movie’s total now stands at $93.7 million.
As for “Lincoln,” which stars Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president, the film scored a strong per-theater average of $81,818. That’s the third-highest per-location average of the year behind “The Master” and “Moonrise Kingdom.”
The well-reviewed movie also received a CinemaScore of A and will expand to roughly 1,700 cinemas nationwide next weekend. Walt Disney Studios, which is distributing the $65 million DreamWorks Studios 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.