The family model (Eon) vs. the corporate model (Marvel)

Family model: 2012's Skyfall

Family model: 2012’s Skyfall

In some ways, the Marvel Studios operation of Walt Disney Co. is like a machine. It has a movie coming out early next month in the U.S. (Iron Man 3), has another slated for November (a sequel to 2011’s Thor), has another filming for 2014 (a sequel to 2011’s Captain America) and has the script written for a 2015 sequel to a big hit last year (Marvel’s The Avengers). Marvel is one of the more successful examples of what we’ll call the corporate model.

Last year, was also a triumph for what we’ll call the family model, Eon Productions, owner of half of the James Bond franchise and run by the family of the late Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli. Skyfall was by far the biggest financial success (not adjusted for inflation) for the 007 film series ($1.11 billion in worldwide ticket sales) and, by some estimates, even adjusted for inflation.

Yet, for the moment, it’s not known when the next Bond film adventure, Bond 24, will come out. 2014? 2015? Maybe even 2016? Some executives at Sony last year said 2014, while Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli said not so fast. The latest word from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the other co-owner of the franchise was sometime in the next three years. Not exactly precision scheduling.

OK, just to get this out of the way. If you’re not inclined to like movies based on comic book characters on principle, or you were a DC Comics guy as a kid rather than Marvel fan, the success of the Marvel movies will not impress you. For that matter, if you’re not a James Bond fan (not exactly the target demographic of this blog), Skyfall’s success won’t mean much either.

Corporate model: 2012's The Avengers

Corporate model: 2012’s The Avengers

Once upon a time (1962-1965, to be precise), Bond adventures came out like clockwork on an every-year schedule. But that was a much-simpler time. Still, since 1989, the 007 films have been produced with more erratic timing: a six-year gap, followed by three films on an every-other-year schedule. followed by a three-year gap, four years, two years, four years. Not all of that was Eon’s fault (MGM’s financial troubles have contributed), but it hasn’t been something to set your calendars by.

In the early 1990s, there was talk of getting the 007 series back on an yearly schedule but that never developed. With 1995’s GoldenEye, the future of the series was riding on the movie and Eon concentrated its efforts on that film. In later years, Michael G. Wilson, the other Eon co-boss who’s now in his 70s, has spoken of the personal strain of making Bond movies. While Eon has its own organization, it’s still largely driven by the half-siblings, Broccoli and Wilson.

Once upon a time, Marvel was a more family-like company (Smilin’ Stan, King Kirby, Sturdy Steve, Jazzy Johnny, Gene the Dean and all that) but that disappeared a long time ago — and went away entirely once Marvel was acquired by Disney. Kevin Feige, one of the lead bosses at Disney’s Marvel Studios operation, talks about this or that but rarely (if ever) about how hard being a producer is. He has a movie assembly line to keep going and, so far, has been doing it.

The 2012 box office results showed when done well, both models can be successful: The Avengers was No. 1 worldwide while Skyfall was No. 4 in the U.S. But the models are different. The corporate model prefers predictability, especially with schedules. But for fans of the family model, the lesser predictability is a strength, not a weakness. Vive le la difference.

Skyfall now No. 2 for 2012 movies, No. 7 all-time

Skyfall's poster image

Skyfall’s poster image

Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, is now the second-highest for 2012 movie ticket sales and No. 7 all-time, according to Box Office Mojo.

The Web site, which tracks movie ticket sales, now estimates Skyfall’s box office at $1.09 billion as of 3 p.m. New York time.

The Sam Mendes-directed Skyfall has now passed The Dark Knight Returns at $1.08 billion. The final of director Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies had held the No. 2 spot for 2012 and No. 7 slot for all-time. Mendes has said previously that Nolan’s second Batman film, The Dark Knight, influenced the development of Skyfall.

The No. 1 2012 movie for ticket sales was Marvel’s The Avengers at $1.51 billion, which is also No. 3 all-time. All figures not adjusted for inflation.

Skyfall will be released on home video this month.

Skyfall approaches $300 million U.S. ticket sales

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Skyfall is approaching the $300 million mark for U.S.-Canada ticket sales as its run in the region’s theaters nears its end.

The 23rd James Bond movie has generated $299.4 million in U.S.-Canada ticket sales, according to BOX OFFICE MOJO following an estimated $1.57 million for the Jan. 11-13 weekend.

Skyfall is now at $1.026 billion $1.03 billion (Box Office Mojo updated the figure between 12 noon and 3 p.m. New York time) in worldwide ticket sales. It passed the $1 billion market at the end of December. It was one of three movies to reach that level in 2012, behind Marvel’s The Avengers at $1.51 billion and The Dark Knight Rises at $1.08 billion.

The last major market that hasn’t gotten Skyfall yet is China, according to THIS LIST ON IMDB.COM.

Skyfall: the billion-dollar Bond

The billion-dollar Bond

The billion-dollar Bond

Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, is projected to reach $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales today, according to the BOX OFFICE MOJO WEB SITE.

Skyfall will sell an estimated $4.6 million in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, bringing its total in the region to $289.6 million. The 007 film has sold an estimated $710.6 million in other markets, according to the Web site which tracks movie ticket sales. The full estimated worldwide ticket sale figure as of today is $1,000,200,000, Box Office Mojo said. The actual U.S. weekend figure will be reported tomorrow. It’s possible if the actual weekend sales are revised lower that Skyfall would momentarily fall short of $1 billion.

Hitting the $1 billion mark puts Skyfall in the conversation for all-time 007 box-office champion even when adjusting for inflation. Thunderball has been No. 1 on the inflation-adjusted list, with amounts varying based on who is doing the calculations. Earlier this year, AFP-Relaxnews put Thunderball’s inflation-adjusted figure at $1.04 billion. Skyfall has yet to open in China, which will add to the movie’s take.

In the U.S., Skyfall is finishing 2012 as the No. 4 film, behind Marvel’s The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Hunger Games. Skyfall also looks likely to beat The Dark Knight Rises, at $1.08 billion, in worldwide ticket sales. Marvel’s The Avengers is No. 1 worldwide for 2012 at $1.5 billion.

UPDATE: A story in THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER has some quotes from MGM and Sony executives about Skyfall reaching the $1 billion milestone.

Skyfall repeats as No. 2 in U.S. box office

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Skyfall, for the third weekend in a row, was No. 2 in U.S.-Canada movie ticket sales, according to the BOX OFFICE MOJO WEB SITE.

The 23rd James Bond movie had an estimated $17 million in ticket sales, according to the Web site. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 was again No. 1, but not by much, at $17.4 million.

The results bring Skyfall’s U.S.-Canada total to $246 million and its worldwide ticket sales to $869 million, according to Box Office Mojo. The film had already set U.S. and worldwide ticket sales records.

About the only box-office suspense remaining is whether Skyfall can crack the $1 billion mark for ticket sales. That would put Skyfall near The Dark Knight Rises at $1.08 billion. Marvel’s The Avengers is the No. 1 worldwide this year at $1.51 billion.

007 questions about the future of the film James Bond

“What? More questions?”


Some pretty big news week. The MI6 James Bond fan Web site said it had confirmed Daniel Craig would do two more 007 films after this year’s Skyfall. The Web site didn’t specify how it obtained the information, but it got picked up on other Web sites, including THIS ONE, THIS ONE and THIS ONE. Oh, and don’t forget THIS ONE. Even THE HUFFINGTON POST cited the MI6 story. (UPDATE: Nikki Finke’s Deadline entertainment news Web site said it CONFIRMED THE NEWS AND REPORTED THAT SONY WOULD CO-FINANCE BOND 25.)

Well, that got us to thinking and that, naturally, spurs us to ask these questions:

001. Which movie will be seen first: Bond 24 or Marvel’s The Avengers 2?: The Avengers has been the biggest hit of 2012 with $1.5 billion in worldwide ticket sales and Walt Disney Co. has already set a May 1, 2015, release date for a sequel. When will Bond 24 come out? Sony Corp. has said 2014 but Eon Productions co-boss Barbara Broccoli and star Daniel Craig have said NOT SO FAST.

002. If Bond 24 doesn’t come out in 2014, when will it come out? You’re guess is as good as ours. One of the main talking points of the Skyfall publicity campaign is the movie benefited from production delays (due to studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s bankruptcy) to fine tune the script. For an example, CLICK HERE. If so, would that be at odds with trying to restore the tradition every-other-year schedule that MGM and Sony Corp. (which is releasing Skyfall) want?

003. What are you trying to say? It’s one thing to say Daniel Craig will do two more films if the second is out in 2016. It’s another if the second is out in (for argument’s sake) 2020.

004. They won’t wait another four years to do Bond 24, will they? Let’s see if Eon co-boss Michael G. Wilson complains yet again about how exhausting it is to make James Bond movies. If a new set of Wilson quotes along this line surfaces late this year or in early 2013, it might be a sign that Bond 24 might not come out as soon as many fans would like. If that’s the case, when would Bond 25 come out?

005. Any possibility any more spoilers will come out before Skyfall’s premier? It depends whether the sountrack comes out before the film’s premier.

006. What does that mean? Well, Thunderball’s soundtrack came out in November 1965, a month before the “Biggest Bond of All” came out. One of the tracks was titled “Death of Fiona,” so that was a giveaway. Other titles on various 007 soundtracks included “Death of Grant,” “Death of Goldfinger” and “Death of Aki.” So a fan could get some clues if they purchase the soundtrack before the movie premiers.

007. Are you looking forward to Skyfall or not? Yes to the movie. Not so much to various talking points. It’s under 50 days before the U.K. premier and just over two months before the U.S. premier. Other than, say, seeing the final Skyfall trailer, we’d rather get on with it. In the end, it’s whether the movie is good or not.

ABC orders SHIELD pilot, Deadline reports

Jim Steranko’s cover for Strange Tales No. 167


ABC has ordered a SHIELD pilot to be co-written by Joss Whedon, the Deadline entertainment news Web site reported.

An excerpt:

The project is based on Marvel’s peacekeeping organization S.H.I.E.L.D (which stands for Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate or Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) found in both the Marvel comic book and feature film universes, including the blockbuster 2012 movie The Avengers, in which S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury, recruits Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, and Thor to stop Thor’s adoptive brother Loki from subjugating Earth.

S.H.I.E.L.D. will be written by Whedon and frequent collaborators, his brother Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. Joss Whedon also is set to direct the pilot, schedule permitting.

SHIELD (which originally stood for Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage Law-Enforcement Division) debuted in 1965 in a story by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Strange Tales No. 135. In that initial effort, Nick Fury is recruited to be SHIELD’s director. Lee and Kirby first created Fury in 1963 as the lead in a World War II comic book, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos. It was established in a Fantastic Four story that Fury survived the war and was in the CIA.

Fury and SHIELD reached their peak of popularity in stories written and drawn by Jim Steranko. Steranko guided Fury into his own title in 1968 but departed after doing four of the first five issues.

The ABC pilot isn’t SHIELD’s first foray into television. David Hasselhoff starred in the title role in a 1998 TV movie, Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD.

007 movie ticket sales adjusted for inflation

Thunderball, the 007 box office champion adjusted for inflation

AFP-Relaxnews, a leisure news wire, this week recalculated worldwide ticket sales for the James Bond movie series by adjusting the figures for inflation. Here’s how the news service summarized its results:

Sean Connery, every movie buff’s favorite James Bond, is also the saga’s number one cash cow, based on international box office numbers.

Among the six actors who officially played Agent 007 on the silver screen, Sean Connery proved the most surefire box-office draw: each of his six James Bond films, from Dr. No (1962) to Diamonds Are Forever (1971), grossed $729 million on average (adjusting for inflation).

You can view the full list and story by CLICKING HERE.

Under the inflation-adjusted numbers compiled by AFP-Relaxnews, 1965’s Thunderball is the 007 box office champ at $1.04 billion, with 1964’s Goldfinger close behind at just under $936 million. To put this in perspective, Thunderball’s inflation-adjusted figure wouldn’t be as much as the 2012 film Marvel’s The Avengers at $1.45 billion but it’d be in that enviable neighborhood.

The highest non-Sean Connery film on the inflation-adjusted list? Roger Moore’s 007 debut, 1973’s Live And Let Die, at $847 million. (Live And Let Die was the first 007 film to top Thunderball in real life ticket sales.)

The lowest on the inflation-adjusted list is 1989’s Licence to Kill starring Timothy Dalton at just under $293 million. A View to a Kill, Moore’s 1985 finale as Bond, is next to last at just under $330 million. (Is the lesson here not to put “Kill” in the title?)

In real life, Daniel Craig’s 007 debut, 2006’s Casino Royale, is No. 1 at $596 million. That translates to $687.5 million adjusted for inflation and in the upper part of that list, ahead of the likes of Moonraker ($673 million), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service ($665.7 million) and From Russia With Love ($599 million) while trailing The Spy Who Loved Me ($711 million) and You Only Live Twice ($778 million).

Connery’s six movies in the Eon series account for 33 percent of the inflation-adjusted series total while Roger Moore’s seven entries generated 30 percent, according to AFP-Relaxnews.

To see the non-adjusted box office list, CLICK HERE. AFP-Relaxnews says it used data from the U.S. Department of Labor in making its calculations to adjust for inflation.

The Avengers: the power of planning

So, Marvel’s The Avengers broke all records for a movie’s opening weekend in the U.S. and Canada. There’s a lot of praise for the movie (that tends to happen with a big hit). Are there any any lessons for older movie franchises, say, a 50-year-old one featuring a gentleman agent? Maybe one.

The Avengers: result of a five-year plan


The Hollywood Reporter on its Web site says there are five hidden reasons for the success of The Avengers. One caught our eye:

Avengers benefited from something no movie had before: It has been marketed to audiences since Iron Man first appeared at Comic-Con in 2007. When that movie became a surprise hit in May 2008 with a $98.6 million opening weekend, Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige quickly unveiled his intention to make four more movies — The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America — all of which would lead to a giant team-up. Avengers characters like Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) popped up in those movies, and the original Iron Man featured a coda segment devoted to the Avengers initiative. At the time, only comic-book fanboys understood the reference.

Planning? Well, yes, that’s what happened with The Avengers. Had 2008’s Iron Man bombed, we probably wouldn’t have gotten The Avengers. But Marvel Studios did have a game plan about where to go from there.

Contrast that with the 007 franchise the past decade. You had Die Another Day in 2002, the 40th anniversary Bond film. After that? Eon Productions didn’t exactly know where to go. Those aren’t our words. That’s what Eon co-boss Michael G. Wilson told The New York Times IN OCTOBER 2005:

“We are running out of energy, mental energy,” Mr. Wilson recalled saying. “We need to generate something new, for ourselves.”

That led to 2006’s Casino Royale where Eon decided to start the series all over. The movie wasn’t so much Bond 21 as it was Bond 2.0. It was a big critical and commercial hit. But Eon didn’t exactly know where to proceed from that point. For Eon’s next movie, multiple ideas were considered, including Bond encountering Vesper Lynd’s child before opting for a “direct sequel” that didn’t really match up with the continuity of Casino Royale.

Earlier, in the early 1990s, in the midst of a six-year hiatus, there were reports that Eon commissioned scripts so it could get off to a running start and get Bond movies out at a regular pace. Eon may have commissioned scripts, but there was no running start. After the series resumed with GoldenEye, Eon had scripts from Donald E. Westlake and Bruce Feirstein (and possibly others, but those two were publicly disclosed). The Feirstein script got rewritten by other writers before Feirstein did the final version and was the only scribe to get a writing credit for Tomorrow Never Dies.

To be fair, Eon had a legal fight with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the early ’90s and MGM had financial difficulties in 2009-2010, including a trip to bankruptcy court. That’s something Marvel Studios hasn’t had to deal with. At the same time, Marvel Studios was able to juggle multiple movies as well as different directors and writers as it executed its plan. If Eon has a similar long-term plan, it hasn’t shared it with anyone.

Interestingly, an element of The Avengers is the secret organization SHIELD. Stan Lee, in a 1975 book, wrote that SHIELD was inspired by James Bond movies and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series.

UPDATE (May 13): Marvel’s The Avengers had an estimated $103.2 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales in its second weekend of release. Meanwhile, Kevin Feige of Marvel Studios said in a Bloomberg Television interview that five more movies based on Marvel characters are in the works.

SHIELD’s helicarrier as seen in the comics

Jack Kirby’s original depiction of the SHIELD helicarrier

The big movie is the U.S. this weekend is Marvel’s The Avengers. One of the film’s settings is a massive flying complex belonging to the mysterious organization SHIELD that has brought together a group of superheroes. That flying headquarters, or helicarrier, made its debut in Strange Tales No. 135, which also introduced Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

In that initial story, Nick Fury is being recruited to lead SHIELD. He doesn’t know where he has been taken until the 11th page of the 12-page tale where Fury foils a plot by a secret organization called Hydra to destroy SHIELD’s command center. (See image at right.)

Later, in Strange Tales No. 154, artist Jim Steranko (who also plotted the SHIELD story in that issue), provided a “blueprint” with a cutaway view of the helicarrier. “Being made of a new silica and steel alloy, it is a simple feat for the colossal craft to hover five miles above the Eastern Seaboard…and to go much higher, if necessary!” scripter Roy Thomas informed readers.

Jim Steranko’s “blueprint” for the helicarrier


Also, in that issue, Fury is outfitted with a new flameproof and fireproof suit from a SHIELD staffer named, eh, Boothroyd. The suit is pretty much trashed by the end of the issue after Fury encounters a Hydra robot called the Dreadnaught.

Lee, in his 1975 book Sons of Origins of Marvel Comics, said he was a fan of James Bond films and the television show The Man From U.N.C.L.E. “We were going to out-Bond Bond and out-UNCLE UNCLE — if you’ve got to set goals for yourself, might as well make ‘em big ones!”

UPDATE: Marvel’s The Avengers set a U.S. record for a movie’s opening weekend with $200.3 million in ticket sales. That’s a preliminary figure based on actual ticket sales on Friday and Saturday and estimated results for Sunday. The final figure will be released on May 7.

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