Hollywood glamour meets British royalty at the world premiere of the 23rd James Bond movie Skyfall. See stars Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem and new Bond girls Naomie Harris and Berenice Marlohe take the red carpet at the London premiere. (Photos: AP/AFP)
Los Angeles - James Bond can don the tuxedo and break out the Dom Perignon after the super spy returned to theatres in record fashion at the weekend, blowing away box office rivals with $87.8m in ticket sales for the US and Canadian debut of new movie Skyfall for the biggest opening in the franchise's history.
The best North American opening for the 50-year-old Bond franchise adds to a strong tally of $428.6m for Skyfall overseas. Globally, the movie starring Daniel Craig as 007 has now earned $518.6m since first hitting international theatres on 26 October, distributor Sony Pictures said.
Skyfall handily beat Walt Disney's animated movie Wreck-It Ralph, the story of a video game character who destroys everything in his path. The family film that topped last week's charts grabbed $33.1m from Friday through Sunday and slipped to second place.
'One for the history books'
Denzel Washington drama Flight, about an airline captain who saves a plane from crashing, pulled in $15.1m to finish third.
Bond's allure proved unbeatable in Skyfall, the third movie starring Craig and the first in four years. The last Bond film, Quantum of Solace in 2008, opened with a then-record $68m at North American theatres.
"We've always been very bullish about the film, but I don't think anyone expected the kind of stunning numbers that we've seen," said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Sony Pictures studio.
"How many pictures in just over two weeks have earned more than half a billion already?" he told Reuters.
"We've seen huge openings in every country that it's opened in. It's going to be one for the history books," Bruer added.
In the new movie, Judi Dench returns as Bond's supervisor, "M". Bond travels between Istanbul, Shanghai and London as his loyalty to M is tested, while MI6 comes under attack from an unknown threat. Javier Bardem plays the villain Bond must stop.
Bond's return has been hailed by the critics as a triumph for the 23-film franchise after a tepid response to Quantum of Solace. Ninety-two percent of Skyfall reviews on the Rotten Tomatoes website were positive, and audiences polled by CinemaScore awarded the film an "A" grade. The film has already exceeded the Quantum lifetime box office total.
The $200m movie was produced by MGM, Sony and Eon Productions. Its release comes 50 years after the franchise premiered with Dr. No in 1962, and the producers highlighted the anniversary in the film's marketing. The 22 previous Bond films have grossed $5 billion at box offices over five decades.
Skyfall was the only major new nationwide release this weekend. Steven Spielberg's historical drama Lincoln opened in 11 theatres with sales of $900 000, or $81 818 per theatre on average. The movie which stars Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president expands to 1 500 locations next Friday.
Rounding out the top five, Ben Affleck drama Argo, about the rescue of US diplomats from Iran in 1979, finished in fourth place with $6.7m. In fifth place, Liam Neeson hostage thriller Taken 2 grabbed $4m.
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