SPECTRE: What could have been


No plot spoilers for the actual movie. If you think nothing should be written based on the Sony hack, stop reading now. No further warnings.

Now that WikiLeaks has set up a searchable index of hacked Sony documents, pretty much anybody with patience and an Internet connection can check out the pre-production of SPECTRE.

The Bleeding Cool website PUBLISHED A LONG POST based on the WiliLeaks material that contained a lot of spoilers and ideas considered, but rejected, for the movie. There have been other stories, SUCH AS THIS ONE concerning details of product placement deals.

The following doesn’t concern what’s in the movie — but could have had things gone differently.

October 2013, a SPECTRE outline arrives: Sony executives are mostly enthusiastic. There are multiple references to “love” this or “great hook” are among the responses.

“Love the idea that their is a mole in MI-6 and it turns out to be Tanner,” reads one of the reactions from the Sony camp.

Hard-core Bond fans — especially those who like Ian Fleming’s novels — might beg to differ. Bill Tanner, M’s chief of staff, was a friend to Bond in Fleming’s novels. In The Man With The Golden Gun book, Tanner asks M if he plans to bring charges against a brainwashed Bond for trying to kill him.

In the Golden Gun novel, when M informs Tanner he plans to send Bond on a suicide mission — to take out the novel’s title character — the chief of staff responds, “You coldhearted bastard!”

March 2014, first draft is delivered: There’s a more mixed reaction. Executives comment at events on various pages, while some visuals get praised.

Tanner is still a traitor. The villain, at this point, is an African, Joseph Ki-Embu, who uses a familiar Bond villain name as an alias. Felix Leiter, Bond’s CIA agent friend, also is in the mix.

May 2014: Amy Pascal, at the time one of Sony’s top movie executives, types up some reactions, including page-by-page notes.

Highlights: Bond is “rejected by two women by page 30.” Bond lets Tanner commit suicide on page 91. On page 122, Leiter calls Moneypenny a “foxy lady.”

Late June 2014: BAZ BAMIGBOYE OF THE DAILY MAIL reports that veteran 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have been brought back to rewrite the script by John Logan.

Jonathan Glickman, an executive of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which controls half of the 007 franchise, sends an e-mail to Sony executives. “Who spills the beans on this? P and W’s agents?” He’s also not happy with some John Cleese quotes in the Daily Mail story.

August 2014: There’s a debate because SPECTRE director “Sam Mendes is thinking about shooting 3 sequences in IMAX, a la (director Christopher) Nolan on Batman and Interstellar.” This will add $7 million to the movie’s budget. The same month, it’s decided that won’t happen. The three sequences will be shot “with full aperture, spherical lenses v. the rest of the pic which is anamorphic.”

UPDATED: Skyfall U.S. box office prediction chart

UPDATE III (Nov. 10): BLOOMBERG.COM quoted Hollywood.com Box Office as estimating Skyfall’s opening U.S. and Canada could total as much as $80 million in ticket sales.

An excerpt:

The film earned $30.8 million yesterday, including $2.4 million in midnight showings, the box-office tracker said today in an e-mailed statement. Sales outside the U.S. and Canada for “Skyfall” are $347 million as of Nov. 8, Hollywood.com said.

UPDATE II: The DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE quotes “rival studios” to Sony Pictures as saying Skyfall may have sold $37 million in tickets Thursday and Friday combined and could have an $88 million opening weekend.

UPDATE: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER says Skyfall had ticket sales of $2.2 million at Imax theaters on Thursday and $2.4 million at 12:01 a.m. showings on Friday.

ORIGINAL POST: For those interested in the business side of the movies, here’s our updated chart of Skyfall U.S. box office predictions. The movie opened at Imax theaters in the U.S. yesterday and is in wide release starting today.

“I must get to the theater NOW!”

Los Angeles Times: at least $75 million opening weekend.

BOXOFFICE.COM: $230 million total U.S.; $85 million opening weekend

Exhibitors Relations, cited in THE WRAP entertainment news Web site: $230 million total U.S., more than $70 million opening weekend.

The Wrap (citing analysts and “rival” studio executives: $75 million to $85 million weekend.

DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEW WEB SITE: $215 million total U.S., described as a “guesstimate.”

BOX OFFICE MOJO: $185 million total U.S. In a STORY TODAY, the Web state is projecting an opening weekend of $78.2 million, including Thursday showings at Imax theaters.

The Nov. 9 Box Office Mojo story also says:

One thing working against Skyfall’s opening weekend figure, though, is its Thursday IMAX debut. Sony isn’t currently releasing theater count information, though the assumption is that it’s playing in at least 300 of IMAX’s over 330 domestic locations. Based on IMAX’s track record, Skyfall could earn as much as $2 million on Thursday, which is money it would have earned over the traditional three-day weekend.

Preliminary box office figures come out Sunday, Nov. 11. They will consist of actual ticket sales on Friday and Saturday with an estimate for Sunday. Final figures come out the following day.

Sony watch: studio looks to Skyfall for a lift

Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond movie, can’t have come soon enough for Sony Corp. and its Sony Pictures unit.

Sony reported a lot of bad numbers this week. The parent company reported its seventh straight quarterly loss (details can be found BY CLICKING HERE to view a Bloomberg News story). It had been expeced by analysts to post a profit. Sony Corp. is now worth less than 10 percent of what it was in 2000.

Sony Pictures had an operating profit, but it was down almost 62 percent, according to the Deadline Web site from a year earlier. The Amazing Spider-Man released in July was a big help, the Total Recall remake released in August was not. Sony Corp. said the movie business is not for sale, according to Deadline. Sony Pictures will release two fewer movies a year starting in 2014, according to the Los Angeles Times.

All of which brings us to Skyfall, which Sony is releasing and co-financed with Metro-Goldwyn Mayer. The Bond movie set a seven-day ticket sales record in the U.K., according to Deadline and has sold about $100 million in tickets in various markets since its Oct. 26 debut. Skyfall reaches U.S. shores Nov. 8 at Imax theaters and goes into general release the next day.

Skyfall by itself won’t cure the ills of Sony and Sony Pictures. It’s just one movie and the studio unit has to share Skyfall’s take with MGM and theater chains. But assuming the positive box office buzz continues, Sony won’t mind at all reporting Skyfall numbers. Sony Pictures also will co-finance Bond 24 and Bond 25.

Skyfall by the numbers: box office figures to keep in mind

This is a sequel to a POST IN MAY about numbers that studio bosses will be watching when Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond movie, arrives in theaters. Here are some numbers to keep in mind for those fans who care about how Skyfall does at the box office.

$596.4 million: Highest worldwide ticket sales for a 007 movie (2006’s Casino Royale). Given rising ticket prices and that Skyfall will be available at Imax theaters (with even higher prices), Skyfall should take over the No. 1 slot for Bond movies if ticket sales are comparable to the first two Daniel Craig 007 films.

$169.4 million: Highest U.S. ticket sales for a 007 movie (2008’s Quantum of Solace). See previous item.

$694.7 million: World wide ticket sales for Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, according to the Box Office Mojo Web Site. The 2011 movie, the fourth in the series starring Tom Cruise and based on the 1966-73 television series, is a barometer of the popularity of the spy/action genre. Put another way: can 007 best Ethan Hunt, or Daniel Craig beat Tom Cruise at the box office?

$209.4 million: Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol’s U.S. ticket sales. Ditto.

50 percent: A figure we’ve mentioned before but is worth repeating. Studio bosses, at least in terms of U.S. ticket sales, look at a 50 percent falloff between the premier weekend and the second weekend as normal. Casino Royale’s falloff was only 25 percent, Quantum of Solace’s was 60 percent. If a movie’s ticket sales decline less than 50 percent, that’s a indicator a film is getting good worth of mouth. When it exceeds 50 percent, the opposite.

Note: not all fans care about the business side of 007, and some couldn’t care less. But for those who do, these figures will be cited in fan debates.

What would it take for Skyfall to be top financial 007 movie?

Many James Bond fans are jazzed about recent Skyfall trailers (a special Imax trailer and just-released U.S. and international trailers). So much so, some wonder whether Skyfall could be the No. 1 financial Bond film, even adjusted for inflation.

That got us to thinking: what would it take for Skyfall to be the uncontested 007 worldwide box office champion? Here’s a look:

Current No. 1 (unadjusted): Casino Royale (2006) at $596.4 million.

Current No. 1 (adjusted for inflation): Thunderball (1965) at $1.04 billion. (Unadjusted: $141.2 million)

In unadjusted figures, Skyfall’s ticket sales would have to be more than 70 percent higher than Casino Royale’s real world box office gross to exceed the adjusted $1.04 billion figure for Thunderball and become the undisputed 007 box-office champion, adjusted or unadjusted. Meanwhile, only 12 movies have had (unadjusted, or real life) worldwide ticket sales of $1 billion or more. You can see the list by CLICKING HERE.

None of this is to throw cold water on the subject. Rather, if the optimistic 007 fans are proven right, this gives you an idea of the scope of the accomplishment.

Meanwhile, if Skyfall’s worldwide ticket sales are only, say, a “mere” $800 million to $900 million (making Skyfall the top-grossing 007 film on an unadjusted basis), fans shouldn’t feel disappointed. We suspect executives at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Sony Corp. and Eon Productions would be positively giddy. Movies are much more expensive to make and market than the old days, but that’s still real money.

UPDATED: Our Skyfall accuracy checklist

With Skyfall coming out in a few months, we thought we’d update our Oct. 30, 2011, post concerning the accuracy of reports over the past 18 months concerning the 23rd James Bond movie.

There are some fans who maintain nothing is official until something is announced. Actually, something like an actor agreeing to play a role is official when he or she has signed a contract (a legal obligation, thus official). An announcement is the end of the process and may not occur (as in the case of our first example below) until well after the actor has completed work.

Also, some of the newspapers that originated these reports don’t have the greatest reputation, including being implicated in the U.K. phone-hacking scandal. As a result, there is reason for fans to be skeptical. Still, many of the reports were eventually proven to be accurate — too many to be attributed to wild guessing. So at least some genuine information has been circulating before formal announcements were made.

Ben Whishaw would be the new Q: Reported by the BBC last year, citing Whishaw’s agent. Formally announced this week. Check. Daniel Craig proclaimed, “Agents are liars,” when asked about reports concerning Whishaw playing Q. Not in this case. Why an official announcement now? One possibility: a new Skyfall trailer was unveiled by Imax at the San Diego comic book convention on July 12. The trailer includes an exchange between Craig’s Bond and Whishaw’s Q.

Skyfall is the title: First reported by the Fusible Web site. Check.

Ralph Fiennes is in the cast: reported by the Daily Mail in February and Variety later. Check.

Albert Finney is in the cast: reported in the Daily Mail on Oct. 28. Check.

Naomie Harris is in the cast: Reported in June 2011 by the now-defunct News of the World. Check.

Berenice Marlohe is the cast: Reported by a Web site called Twitch. Check.

Bond will have a beard during at least part of Skyfall: reported by the Sun newspaper in the U.K. on Oct. 21. Check.

Skyfall will have November 2012 release date: Reported by Nikke Finke’s Deadline entertainment news Web site in late 2010, before the Skyfall title was chosen. Confirmed in news release from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions in early 2011. Later release dated tweaked so that U.K. release will be in October 2012, while the November 2012 date still applies to the U.S. Check.

Javier Bardem offered a role in Skyfall: First reported by by the Deadline Web site. Check.

Sam Mendes being considered to direct Skyfall: Reported by the Deadline Web site in January 2010. Check. Mendes denied the news in an article in The Wall Street Journal afterDAYS after his publicist confirmed talks were underway.

There are two major tidbits yet to be confirmed. One concerns the departure of a series character (SPOILER, don’t click if you don’t want to know). The other, an idea pushed by the Daily Mail newspaper in the U.K. is that Naomie Harris’s agent Eve character will eventually turn out to be Miss Moneypenny (CLICK HERE for one of multiple examples).

At this point, both remain to be seen. Given the fact Mendes denied he was in talks to direct Skyfall (while his publicist was saying otherwise) and Craig denied Whishaw was going to play Q (even as Mendes was confirming it), no official statements can be taken at face value at the moment.

Or, to use the words of Eon co-boss Barbara Broccoli, “Nothing has been announced.” But those words, by themselves, don’t mean they’re not true. We’ll just have to see the movie in the fall to be sure.