Thunderball’s 45th anniversary part I: Bondmania peaks

December is the 45th anniversary of the fourth James Bond film, Thunderball. In some ways, it’s a bittersweet anniversary for 007 fans. Bondmania hit its peak with Thunderball for the general public and it would never make it back to those levels.

Obviously the series has remained popular, generating 18 installments over the next 43 years. But it wouldn’t be the entertainment phenomenon it was in 1964 and 1965.

Thunderball grossed about $63.6 million in the U.S. Adjusted for inflaton, assuming an averge ticket price of $7.95, that translates to almost $595 million in 2010 dollars, according to information compiled by Box Office Mojo Website. On the adjusted gross basis, Thunderball is No. 27 all time and outranks Spider-Man, some (but not all) of the Star Wars series, Forrest Gump and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King among others.

Again, the Box Office Mojo list is U.S.only. Thunderball had a worldwide gross of $141.2 million, according to a list of unadjusted grosses compiled by Numbers.com Assuming a similar adjustment for 2010 (as in the Box Office Mojo U.S. list), you’re looking at an adjusted gross of more than $1 billion for Thunderball.

However, on the adjusted U.S. list, the only other 007 film is 1964’s Goldfinger at No. 41 ($51 million actual U.S. gross, $527 million adjusted for 2010 dollars). In the bottom 10 of the adjusted list, you’ll see the likes of Seargeant York, House of Wax and Toy Story 2. You won’t find Quantum of Solace, the most recent 007 film that had the highest actual U.S. gross in the Bond series of $169.4 million.

Bond, of course, is popular outside of the U.S. Still, if you assume Thunderball has an adjusted gross of $1 billion or better worldwide, then the top unadjusted worldwide grossing Bond film — 2006’s Casino Royale at $596.4 million — isn’t nearly as popuar as the 1965 film was.

Earlier this year, on message boards of Bond fan Web sites, fans argued that adjusted grosses were the true measure of Bond’s popularity. This came in response to stories LIKE THIS ONE that the Harry Potter series had passed 007 in total unadjusted grosses.

But if adjusted is the real standard, then Bond’s *biggest* days are behind him. That doesn’t mean that 007 isn’t popular. And yes, comparing financial performance of movies from different eras is actually more complicated because there are more revenue sources now than in previous decades. Still, it doesn’t change the fact the Thunderball anniversary is also the anniversary of an end of an era, an era that seems unlikely to return.

3 Responses

  1. No, we’re judging the popularity of the series based on the box office adjusted for inflation.

  2. […] Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, becoming their biggest hit to date (and still the biggest on an inflation-adjusted basis); for Kevin McClory, who held the film rights and talked Broccoli and Saltzman into making him a […]

  3. Thunderball is actually a weak entry in the series

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