007 movies listed by number of tickets sold, 1995-present

Skyfall teaser poster

Skyfall teaser poster

The BOX OFFICE MOJO website has tools that let you look beyond unadjusted movie box office. You can also, for example, get a listing (for the U.S. and Canada, at least) of the estimated number of tickets sold.

There are various formulas for adjusting box office figures for inflation. But tickets sold is basic. So we decided to take a look back at the number of tickets sold for the eight 007 films of the past 20 years. Home video was firmly established, as opposed to the early years of the Bond series, where it didn’t exist and movies could get re-released.

Using this measure, 2012’s Skyfall, by far, sold the most tickets among 007 films in the region. After that, there’s less difference that the unadjusted box office figures might suggest.

What follows is each movie’s total U.S.-Canada tickets sold, with the number in parenthesis the number for its opening weekend. The average ticket price for each year is also listed. The total figure for SPECTRE is through Nov. 23.

GoldenEye (1995): 24,403,900 (6,024,100); average ticket price, $4.35

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): 26,911,200 (5,477,800); average ticket price, $4.59

The World Is Not Enough (1999): 24,853,800 (6,991,900); average ticket price, $5.08

Die Another Day (2002): 27,584,000 (8,101,900); average ticket price, $5.81

Casino Royale (2006): 25,428,700 (6,234,100); average ticket price, $6.55

Quantum of Solace (2008): 23,449,600 (9,405,100); average ticket price, $7.18

Skyfall (2012): 37,842,000 (10,977,000); average ticket price, $7.96

SPECTRE (2015): 18,085,500, through Nov. 23, (8,176,900); average ticket price, $8.34

UPDATE: Out of curiosity, we went back to the earliest days of the series. Remember, these movies had re-releases, in some cases several re-releases. But in the cases of Goldfinger and Thunderball, you get an idea that Bond was a *very* big thing in the U.S. in the mid-1960s. Also, there was a big decline, relatively speaking, when You Only Live Twice came out. At the same time, Twice sold almost as many tickets in the U.S. and Canada as Skyfall did. Anyway, here’s a sampling:

Thunderball (1965): 74,800,000 (no opening weekend figure available)

Goldfinger (1964): 66,300,000

You Only Live Twice (1967): 35,904,000

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): 16,038,400

Diamonds Are Forever (1971): 26,557,300

Live And Let Die (1973): 19,987,500

Moonraker (1979): 28,011,200 (2,832,000 opening weekend)

Octopussy (1983): 21,553,500 (2,826,200)

Licence to Kill (1989): 8,732, 200 (2,210,300)

UPDATE II: To give that Thunderball figure some perspective, the top box office movie in the U.S. and Canada so far this year has been Jurassic World. It sold about 79 million tickets, according to Box Office Mojo. While comparisons that far apart are dicey, it’s fair to say Thunderball was in the same general league in its day. But before Bond fans brag too much, The Sound of Music (released the same year as Thunderball and also re-released several times), sold more than 142 million tickets.

‘Writing’s on the Wall’ is the new ‘Only Myself to Blame’

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Sam Smith’s awaited main title song for SPECTRE, titled “Writing’s On the Wall,” was finally released last Friday.

As expected, the Bond fandom was divided between those who called it “an instant classic” and the ones who opened a petition drive to banish it to the end credits.

Still, even when Smith’s voice may not be the most appropriate, the orchestration and lyrics excel in examining James Bond’s feelings and emotions, something only given before by a discarded end title song, Scott Walker’s “Only Myself to Blame,” put away from 1999’s The World Is Not Enough in favor of the triumphant James Bond Theme.

“I walked way past midnight, I’ve driven for days I tried to forget in so many ways,” the vocalist sang Don Black’s lyrics. “From city to city, I still see your face… it follows me ‘round, all over the place. I shouldn’t look back, but I do just the same. And I’ve only myself to blame,” the song continues.

The composition, still available on track 19 of David Arnold’s soundtrack, was the first song to narrate the misfortune of a heartbroken Bond, far away of the “Nobody does it Better” or “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” fanfares.

The World Is Not Enough poster

The World Is Not Enough poster

As a vocal version of Elektra’s Theme (Black told composer Arnold “there was a song” hidden in it), it laments the ill-fated romance between James Bond and the young oil tycoon played by Sophie Marceau: an innocent girl, corrupted after being kidnapped, turning into a criminal mastermind capable to use both Bond (Pierce Brosnan) and her former kidnapper/lover Renard (Robert Carlyle) as fools.

As we know, the story ended with the cold shot of a 007 who “never misses,” but also takes a minute to caress her dead body.

Much like “Only Myself to Blame,” Sam Smith’s song “Writing’s On the Wall” tears miles away of the triumphalist conception of James Bond and dives into his biggest weakness: his inability to enjoy a lasting relationship due to the hazards of his violent job.

Times had been tough for Daniel Craig’s version of 007: in Casino Royale, his love interest Vesper Lynd commits suicide. That leads him, in Quantum of Solace, to Mr. White and subsequently to ecologist Dominic Greene to unravel a secret criminal organization while seeking the help of the vengeful Camille, who barely kisses him before walking away after the mission is over.

In Skyfall, all this story arc seems put away but Bond still has to face another challenge to his emotions: Judi Dench’s M dies on his arms after being wounded during the attack led by former agent Silva.

“I’ve been there before, but I always hit the floor,” Smith sings, evoking these fateful events between 2006 and 2015: the deaths of a love interest and a mother figure, facts that are supposed to come back with a vengeance in SPECTRE.

“If I risk it all… would you break my fall?” Smith powerfully sings, referring to Bond’s relationship with Madeleine Swann, apparently the first character to aim to his emotions and “analyze” him for the first time since Vesper told him that “because he’s done something doesn’t mean he has to keep doing it.”

Back at the beginning of September, Smith described his song for the film as “a love song,” a category that could very well fit older pieces such as “From Russia with Love”, “You Only Live Twice” or “We Have all the Time in The World”. Yet, Jimmy Napes’ lyrics go one step further by revealing the inner feelings of 007 facing the possibility of putting his heart at stake once more.

More than a love song, “Writing’s On the Wall” proves to be a declaration of love. The song goes: “But I feel like a storm is coming if I’m gonna make it through the day. Then there’s no use in running, this is something I gotta face.” Is it insinuating that, even if a disaster occurs again, he can’t run away of his feelings?

The title sentence seems to confirm it: “For you, I have to risk it all… ‘cause the writing’s on the wall.”

The expression “writing’s on the wall” refers to an imminent disaster coming, but it looks like, even if this disaster occurs, he’s willing to go all in. Compared to “Only Myself to Blame,” Bond (or the performer getting inside his inner thoughts) isn’t offering a retrospective reflection, and despite the negative connotation of the song’s title the vibe of Smith’s song proves to be more positive than Walker’s: “When all hope begins to shatter, know that I won’t be afraid.”

There’s almost a month to wait until we see if, this time, Daniel Craig’s Bond will have a happy ending with Léa Seydoux’s character. So far, it’s interesting to see “Writing’s On the Wall” as the comeback of an idea put away from a 1999 Bond film, a nostalgic song that wouldn’t have fitted the victorious ending of that story and would have raised the eyebrows of the fans, in a historical context where Pierce Brosnan’s 007 was meant to win.

Now, as Daniel Craig’s 007 ran away of many emotional battles that didn’t seem to be healed, an introspective Bond song will get the main titles treatment. We don’t know if this will turn out to be good or bad, but interesting for sure.

1998: the Purvis & Wade era begins

The World Is Not Enough poster

The World Is Not Enough poster

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, at six movies and counting, are No. 2 among credited 007 screenwriters, behind only Richard Maibaum at 13. Their tenure began with a first draft script for The World Is Not Enough, submitted June 15, 1998.

The title page says the draft is based on an idea by Maibaum. The copy this blog got from Bond collector Gary Firuta has The World Is Not Enough on the title page, though it’s referred to as Bond 19 on subsequent pages.

The script weighs in at 109 pages. The rule-of-thumb for scripts is they average out at one minute of running time per page. The final movie, released in November 1999, was 128 minutes. The first draft would eventually be rewritten separately by Dana Stevens and Bruce Feirstein. Feirstein would share the screenplay credit with Purvis and Wade.

Overall, the 1998 first draft is closer to the final product than either Michael France’s first draft for GoldenEye or Feirstein’s first draft for Tomorrow Never Dies. There are still significant differences, but the basic plot and many set pieces are present in the initial effort by Purvis and Wade.

The pre-credits sequence of the first draft is similar to the final movie with a couple of major differences. It opens in Havana, instead of Bilbao, Spain. Later, in London, Bond takes off after the woman assassin with a jet pack instead of the gadget-laden Q boat.

Bond uses the jet pack to get ahead of the woman assassin in her boat. She spots him “minus jet pack, standing at the front of a moored ship, feet apart, poised to start firing.” The two fire at each other. She’s hit and “crashes into the side of the ship.”

This sets up a bit of a cliffhanger as an explosion ensues “lighting up the evening sky, enveloping James Bond and burning us into our….TITLES.”

Of course, Bond survives (it’d be a short movie it he didn’t), but after the titles we see a funeral. It takes an exchange between M and Bill Tanner to establish it’s the funeral for businessman Robert King (thus establishing it’s not 007’s funeral). We don’t actually see Bond until the next scene.

In this draft, Q is around for a bit longer than in the final film, which would be actor Desmond Llewelwyn’s final appearance in the role. There’s no “R,” the Q deputy John Cleese would play. There’s also no sign of Robinson, the aide to M who debuted in Tomorrow Never Dies. As a result, Tanner gets more dialogue.

The woman doctor Bond gets to clear him for duty is named Greatrex instead of Molly Warmflash.

The character of Christmas Jones is present, but there’s a bit of a difference. Here, she’s  a “BEAUTIFUL FRENCH POLYNESIAN GIRL,” and “is a mid-twenties, shortish hair, hot right now.”  She also speaks with a French accent.

Her entrance is much like the final movie. When she gets out of protective suit she has “a khaki sports bra, similar shorts, heavy duty boots. Deep tan, incredible figure. Totally unselfconscious.” The part ended up going to American actress Denise Richards.

The biggest structural difference in this draft compared with the movie is that M stays put and doesn’t go out into the field. Thus, M is never kidnapped and put into peril. Later versions of the script added that element, which would be the start of the trend where Judi Dench’s M leaves the office a lot to deal with Bond away from MI6 headquarters. That became a way for the series to provide more screen time for the Oscar-winning actress.

Finally, the first draft — similar to Bruce Feirstein’s first draft for Tomorrow Never Dies — makes occasional references to earlier 007 films.

Besides the jet pack (a nod to Thunderball) in the pre-titles sequence, Bond initially travels to see Elektra King posing as David Somerset (an alias Bond used in From Russia With Love). Here, the David Somerset cover is supposed to be a public relations expert in crisis communications.

Anyway, for Purvis and Wade this was just the start. The duo have made five 007 encores, including SPECTRE, the 24th 007 film that comes out this fall. With SPECTRE, the duo revised drafts by John Logan.



TWINE’s 15th anniversary: a transition for 007

The World Is Not Enough poster

The World Is Not Enough poster

The World Is Not Enough, the 19th film in the 007 film series made by Eon Productions, marked a transition.

Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli hired a director, Michael Apted, with little experience in action movies. Apted was brought on because of his drama experience.

The producers also hired a new writing team, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, to develop the story. They’re still in the world of 007 15 years later.

The script development established a pattern the duo would soon be familiar with. They delivered their script, which would be reworked by other writers. In the case of The World Is Not Enough, Dana Stevens, Apted’s wife, revised the story. Another scribe, Bruce Feirstein, worked on the final drafts. Purvis, Wade and Feirstein would get a screen credit.

Meanwhile, Judi Dench’s M got expanded screen time, something that would persist through 2012’s Skyfall. The film also marked the final appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as Q. John Cleese came aboard as Q’s understudy.

Pierce Brosnan, in his third 007 outing, was now an established film Bond. In interviews at the time, he talked up the increased emphasis on drama. In the film, Bond falls for Elektra King, whose industrialist father is killed in MI6’s own headquarters. But in a twist, Elektra (played by Sophie Marceau) proves to be the real mastermind.

The movie tried to balance the new emphasis on drama with traditional Bond bits such as quips and gadgets, such as the “Q boat” capable of diving underwater or rocketing across land. Some fans find the character of Dr. Christmas Jones, a scientist played by Denise Richards, over the top.

Sometimes, the dual tones collided. Cleese’s initial appearance was played for laughs. In the same scene, however, Q, in effect, tells Bond good-bye in what’s intended to be a touching moment. It was indeed the final good-bye. Llewelyn died later that year as the result of a traffic accident.

The movie was a financial success, with $361.8 million in worldwide box office. Broccoli and Wilson, meanwhile, would return to the idea of increased drama in later entries after recasting Bond with Daniel Craig.

When is it time for 007 actors, or fans, to ‘move on’?

John Cleese and Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day

John Cleese and Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day

John Cleese, who appeared in two James Bond movies, has let it be known he doesn’t think that highly of 007 films since he departed the series.

Cleese is promoting a new book, but his association with Bond (in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough and 2002’s Die Another Day) keeps coming up in stories run by DIGITAL SPY SHORTLIST.COM and DEN OF GEEK among other websites.

Here’s an example of what Cleese has said. It’s from ShortList.com, and these comments have been picked up by other sites.

I didn’t see [Skyfall], because I have criticisms of the new Bond movies. Two things went wrong: the plots became so impossibly obscure that even professional writers couldn’t figure out what they were about; and the action scenes, which are supposed to make the adrenaline run, go on far too long. They discovered these movies were popular in places such as the Philippines and South Korea, and so they dropped the humour because no one there is going to understand jokes about the English class system. They’re financially incredibly clever, as the take goes up by $100m every movie, but one of the great things I’ve learnt in the last few years is just how much money spoils everything.

Cleese made some similar comments in June in a RADIO TIMES interview.

In turn, some 007 fans on social media have reacted by saying Cleese is bitter because he wasn’t included in the Daniel Craig reboot, starting with 2006’s Casino Royale, he should “just move on,” or simply “shut up.” Skyfall was a billion-dollar blockbuster, Casino Royale and Skyfall got some of the best reviews of the series, etc.

Of course, if you spend enough time on social media or 007 message boards or other spots on the Internet, you’ll see fans debate things going back 30, 40, almost 50 years. For example, many still don’t like how 1967’s You Only Live Twice jettisoned the plot of Ian Fleming’s novel. Some still strongly criticize the performances of Roger Moore, who hasn’t made a Bond movie since 1985. Some feel the movies went wrong in the early 1970s when the humor element increased. And so on and so forth.

A few questions: When is it time to move on? Ten years? Twenty? Longer? If Cleese should move on, should fans do so as well? Are Cleese’s complaints substantially different than the complaints fan air on the Internet? Where’s the line between being a devoted fan and taking things too seriously?

The answers are going to vary from fan to fan, of course. But Cleese has, probably unintentionally, given something for fans to think about.

Aging in James Bond movies

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

Skyfall director Sam Mendes this month said his 007 film was the first Bond adventure “where characters were allowed to age.” But was it really?

In 2000, author James Chapman made an observation about the opening of 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. At the start of the film, Roger Moore’s Bond visits the grave of his late wife, Tracy. Her headstone gives her year of death as 1969, the year On Her Majesty’s Secret Service came out.

What is unusual, however is not that the film refers back to Bond’s wife…but that it should do so in such a temporally precise way. The dates on the gravestone place the Bond of For Your Eyes Only as being twelve years older than the Bond of OHMSS. Assuming that Bond is usually taken to be in his late thirties, then the Bond of For Your Eyes Only would therefore be approaching fifty. In this sense, the film brings Bond roughly in line with Roger Moore’s own age (he was fifty-three when the film was released) and works better for Moore than it would likely have done for a younger, incoming actor.

Licence to Thrill, Columbia University Press, page 207

Chapman, interacting with fellow 007 fans on Facebook, also mentioned how Desmond Llewelyn’s Q aged. In The World Is Not Enough, he refers to his upcoming retirement and gives Bond a piece of advice before the agent departs on his mission. It would be the last time Llewelyn’s Q would be seen. The actor died after the film was released in the fall of 1999.

This wasn’t the first time such a notion had been considered. In Bruce Feirstein’s first draft script for what would become Tomorrow Never Dies, Q is retired. He has been succeeded by a man named Malcolm Saunders. Q even got a retirement gift from the CIA.

However, later in the Feirstein draft, Q interrupts his retirement to help Bond out. In the final version of Tomorrow Never Dies, there is no hint about a Q retirement.

Finally, while it’s not part of the Eon Productions series, 1983’s Never Say Never Again, with Sean Connery returning as Bond, embraced the older Bond concept.

Arguably, though, Mendes’ Bond film addressed the aging issue the most of a 007 story.

Variations of the line sometimes, the old ways are best were repeated. Mendes, in various interviews, quoted himself as telling Daniel Craig before production started that “you’ll have to play this at close to your own age.” Also, Roger Deakins, the movie’s director of photography, seemed to highlight every wrinkle on Judi Dench’s face in some closeups.

UPDATE: Some other examples of aging in the pre-Mendes Bond universe:

–Connery, in a 1971 article in True magazine, indicated he wanted to play an older Bond in Diamonds are Forever. He said how immortality “isn’t anyone’s, not yours, not mine and not James Bond’s.” The article also referenced how Connery would have preferred to portray a balding Bond.

–Lois Maxwell’s Moneypenny, in Octopussy, says “as I used to be?” when Moore’s Bond talks about how lovely her new assistant is. Of course, this changed when the part was recast in The Living Daylights.

–In Licence to Kill, David Hedison tells his wife that Bond had been married “a long time ago,” in a reference that’s not as specific as the one in For Your Eyes Only.

The Bond of the 1990s

Pierce Brosnan

Pierce Brosnan

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Does anyone remember the 1990s?

Beverly Hills 90210, the Backstreet Boys, the fall of Communism, Claudia Schiffer everywhere, the rise of the Nintendo and Sega videogames, Windows, Internet… so much stuff to make us all feel a little nostalgic and perhaps a bit old, too.

Now we can watch once again on YouTube, in that standard VHS quality, we might now consider bad footage of a long haired and beardy man in a dark suit being surrounded by thousands of cameras and photographers, next to producers Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli and a director called Martin Campbell.

It was 20 years ago. The man was Pierce Brosnan. And this moment was the return of James Bond.

The franchise had its weak moments before, but in the longest gap in the franchise history between 1989 and 1994, Bond seemed really dead, without a chance to survive the post Cold War era or the legal troubles surrounding Danjaq and MGM.

Even with the necessary reboot in 2006 with Casino Royale after the somewhat exaggerated Die Another Day, there was probably no bigger buzz about Bond being outdated than in these five years, for many reasons: (a) Agent 007 was a product of the Cold War, and there was no more Cold War, (b) Licence to Kill was a commercial failure and had weak reviews, and (c) too many years were passing without Bond.

By no means was the return of 007 in the form of Daniel Craig unimportant. It certainly was, but it was expected James Bond would return. By the early 1990s, with only the TV cartoon James Bond Jr. and some telefilm Ian Fleming biopics, the “man on the street” would have many doubts of watching our hero back in the silver screen. Some headlines even called Licence to Kill “007’s final mission.”

This is why June 8, 1994, will be remembered as one of the greatest days in the history of the cinematic agent 007.

With a thousand journalists and photographers from all over the world, Brosnan promised to show us “what is beneath the surface of this man, what makes him a killer,” but also maintain the elements that made him famous: “He’s still a ladies man, yes.”

(Essay continues below the videos)

From that day on, the name of James Bond, sentenced to be part of a retro club subject of conversations years before, was being heard again everywhere, including in Papua New Guinea, where Brosnan, shooting Robinson Crusoe, was recognized by a group of children as the secret agent.

The Brosnan era firmly represented the ‘90s, in the humor, the costumes, the music and the scripts.

GoldenEye (1995) offered us a classic story with some twists. The old Communists were back –- in jokes included –- but also with explicit sex scenes; a metallic and modern score by Eric Serra; and, of course, the inclusion of something that was starting to change our lives, the Internet (Natalya asks for an IBM Computer with 650 MB hard drive, basically one-sixteenth the capacity of our iPad;), the 007 vs 006 rivalty, first time a 00 agent –- a friend of Bond — goes rogue.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) opted for a more pragmatic and less brainy idea by having media tycoon Elliott Carver using his empire to make a war between China and Britain (action, action, action everywhere).

The World Is Not Enough (1999), being the last Bond of the 20th century, provided a twist by having as a villain a woman he fell for, with Sophie Marceau having the distinction of being the first female mastermind in a 007 film.

The 40th anniversary adventure, 2002’s Die Another Day, might have been a weak film in many aspects, but it also had its dosage of drama and violence (i.e. a depiction of torture as part of the main titles).

Even when nowadays Pierce says his Bond wasn’t “good enough” and that he doesn’t dare to watch his own Bond movies, his contribution to the franchise was more than memorable and needed.

Brosnan not only resurrected Bond but also brought a new generation of fans. The end of Cold War couldn’t kill James Bond.


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