Skyfall definitely did not disappoint in its domestic debut this weekend. The 23rd James Bond movie scored an outstanding $87.8 million, which is a new opening weekend record for the 50-year-old franchise. This helped push the Top 12 to an estimated $162.6 million, which is up 29 percent over the same period last year.
Skyfall's opening crushed Quantum of Solace's $67.5 million, which was the previous Bond record. It was also double Casino Royale's $40.8 million debut, which was star Daniel Craig's first outing as the infamous spy. The debut ranks fourth on the year behind The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Hunger Games, and it ranks seventh all-time in November behind two Twilight movies and four Harry Potter flicks. Including $2.2 million from Thursday's IMAX/premium-large-format showings, the movie has already earned $90 million total.
Skyfall was always poised to have an impressive debut thanks to the strength of the Bond brand, but the fact that it so handily set the record is due to a number of factors unique to this entry. First, and perhaps most importantly, Daniel Craig is James Bond to most audiences at this point thanks to Casino Royale's ongoing legacy and reinforced by a clever London Olympics opening ceremony cameo seen by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Additionally, the four-year wait in between movies and the buzz surrounding the 50th anniversary of the character helped to make this feel like more of an event than usual. The enthusiastic reviews ("Best Bond Ever" was a popular one) and Adele's popular theme song helped in the final push as well.
The movie earned a very good $13.1 million, or 15 percent of the four-day haul, from IMAX presentations. The audience was 60 percent male and 75 percent were 25 years of age or older; in comparison, only 58 percent of Quantum's audience was over 25, which suggests that long-time Bond fans made it out at abnormally-high rates for Skyfall.
With the audience skewing older and awarding the movie an "A" CinemaScore, Skyfall is on track for a ton of success in the next few weeks. It's guaranteed to earn over $200 million at the domestic box office, and $250 million doesn't really seem like a stretch either.
In second place, last weekend's winner Wreck-It Ralph eased 33 percent to an estimated $33.1 million. That drop is a bit better than 2010's Megamind (37 percent), and the $93.7 million 10-day total is also up on Megamind's $88.8 million.
Flight fell 39 percent to an estimated $15.1 million in its second outing. Its $47.8 million total is noticeably higher than Denzel Washington's 2010 thriller Unstoppable ($41.9 million) through the same point, and that movie wound up earning over $81 million.
In its fifth weekend, Argo had its steepest drop yet. The Ben Affleck-directed thriller fell 35 percent to an estimated $6.7 million, for a new total of $85.7 million. In comparison, The Town was at $80.5 million through a month in theaters.
Taken 2 rounded out the Top Five with an estimated $4 million, which is only off 33 percent from last weekend. That's a remarkable hold given the direct and overwhelming competition from Skyfall. The action sequel has so far earned $131.3 million, and has a legitimate shot at coming very close to its predecessor's $145 million total.
In 15th place, Steven Spielberg's Lincoln debuted to an estimated $900,000 at 11 locations. That translates to an $81,818 per-theater average, which is second-best ever for a movie in more than 10 locations (behind Precious). It's also third-highest in 2012 behind The Master and Moonrise Kingdom. The historical drama's audience skewed male (55 percent) and much older (67 percent over the age of 35), and they awarded the movie a great "A" CinemaScore. The real test, though, comes next weekend when Lincoln attempts to reach mainstream crowds in at least 1,500 theaters.