“Spectre,” the latest 007 adventure, took first place, debuting to $73 million from 3,929 theaters — a hefty figure and the second-highest debut in series history, but one that nevertheless trails the launch of “Skyfall.” The previous film in the long-running franchise bowed to $88.4 million, but enjoyed better reviews and benefited from being the only new wide release in its opening weekend. Going into the weekend, tracking suggested that the film would debut to $80 million, but the strength of “The Peanuts Movie” and some critical grousing about plot holes wide enough to drive an Aston Martin through may have depressed ticket sales.
Internationally, however, “Spectre” remains a juggernaut, pulling in $200 million and pushing its worldwide total to more than $300 million after two weeks in release.
“When you look at the global piece, it’s absolutely extraordinary,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s global distribution chief. “We’re breaking records in Latin America, in Southeast Asia and Europe.”
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With a production budget of $250 million and millions more in marketing costs, “Spectre” has to pull in $650 million globally to break even.
It’s a time of transition for Bond. Daniel Craig, who has been lauded by critics for injecting an emotional depth and danger to the character, has hinted that this is his last time playing the role. The search for a replacement has already triggered frenzied speculation about who can take over the series. But Bond will survive regardless of who dons his bespoke suits, analysts say.
“It’s a series that can go on no matter what is happening in the world,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “No matter what changes are taking place in technology or whatever cultural issues are taking place, Bond continues to be evolutionary and revolutionary.”
All this comes as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions are weighing distribution offers. Sony’s deal to distribute the Bond films expires with “Spectre,” and though the studio is expected to make a bid to keep the series, other suitors, such as Warner Bros. and Paramount, will aggressively pursue the rights to the franchise.
Sony has handled the Bond series for all four Craig-led films, starting with 2006’s “Casino Royale,” and is credited with helping to grow the films’ global reach. Their knowledge of the property and foreign distribution capabilities will likely be a key part of their pitch to keep the series.
“It’s an extraordinary relationship we have with MGM and Eon,” said Bruer. “We have all complemented each other beautifully over the last four films and hopefully there will be more to come.”
While older audiences flocked to see the martini-swilling spy, Fox’s “The Peanuts Movie” appealed to families. The adaptation of Charles Schulz’s beloved comic strip racked up $45 million across 3,897 screens. It cost $100 million to make and was produced by Blue Sky, the creative force behind the “Ice Age” series.
Heading into the weekend, “The Peanuts Movie” had its own challenges. A younger generation didn’t grow up on Snoopy and Charlie Brown and newspaper funny pages have been a casualty of the blood-letting in the print industry. That meant re-introducing the characters, something that other, older pieces of intellectual property, such as “Mr. Peabody and Sherman,” have been unsuccessful in doing.
But the bet paid off. Thirty eight percent of the audience was under the age of 18 and seemed to like what they saw, handing the film an A+ CinemaScore. If the film holds up, Fox may have a new animated franchise on its hands.
“The audience will determine that, but I certainly hope so,” said Chris Aronson, Fox’s distribution chief. “‘Peanuts’ has such a relatable and positive message and that could serve the world today.”
The success of the two new films displaced “The Martian” from the top spot. The Ridley Scott space adventure took first place for four of the past five weekends and has become the highest-grossing domestic release of the director’s career. It added $9.3 million to its $197.1 million haul and should pass the $200 million mark next week.
The top five was rounded out by “Goosebumps” with $7 million and “Bridge of Spies” with $6.1 million, pushing their domestic hauls to $66.4 million and $55 million, respectively.
On the limited release front, Open Road capitalized on Oscar buzz for “Spotlight.” The look at the Boston Globe’s investigation of the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal picked up $302,276 from five theaters. That’s a healthy per-screen average of $60,455.
The film will gradually expand in the coming weeks and hopes to be in more than 500 theaters heading into Thanksgiving.
“There were multiple sell outs in every theater, every day this weekend,” said Jason Cassidy, chief marketing officer at Open Road. “They had to add showtimes.”
Fox Searchlight offered up another piece of awards bait, debuting the period romance “Brooklyn” in five theaters where it earned $237,389 and picked up a solid per-screen average of $36,200. The film was bolstered by euphoric notices in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and other top papers, with Saoirse Ronan’s work as an Irish immigrant being singled out for praise.
“The word of mouth already seems to be taking effect,” said Frank Rodriguez, senior vice president of distribution at Fox Searchlight. “With both ‘Spotlight’ and ‘Brooklyn,’ these are films that people are talking about and saying you have to go see them.”
And Bleecker Street opened “Trumbo,” a biopic that stars Bryan Cranston as screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, in five theaters. It picked up $77,229 for a per-screen average of $15,445, and will expand into Chicago, Boston, Washington D.C., Phoenix, San Francisco, and Palm Springs.
“We’re prepared for the long run,” said Jack Foley, distribution head at Bleecker Street. “The plan is to go wide at Thanksgiving and then play out from there.”
The success of “Spectre” and “The Peanuts Movie” likely has Hollywood breathing a sigh of relief given that the previous weekend was the worst of the year. Despite a sluggish fall, analysts still believe that the domestic box office in 2015 will pass $11 billion for the first time in history.
“These were big numbers and the boost we needed after a slow October,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “$11 billion is a lock.”