September 29, 2023

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Why Was Skyfall The Best Craig Bond Opener? The Answer Is Five Letters Long

That’s not a shattered box office record.

SPECTRE opened in the United States this weekend to strong yet disappointing numbers.  By comparison to almost every other Bond or Daniel Craig movie, SPECTRE should be celebrated.  Unfortunately, the comparison most analysts make is to the previous Craig tuxedo outing in Skyfall which was the most successful Bond film ever released.  Given Skyfall’s strong reputation and the return of the entire creative team for SPECTRE, what caused the somewhat lackluster performance for the 24th Bond film?  Jump after the break to discover the five letter answer.

Let’s cut to the chase.  I think there’s only one answer why Skyfall opened significantly higher than the other Daniel Craig Bond films:


Let’s take a look at the numbers to understand how Adele can be responsible.  You may have missed this past weekend’s opening since our own weekend box office report somehow left out the United States, but here it is along with the other three Craig films (data from Box Office Mojo):

SPECTRE Skyfall Quantum of Solace Casino Royale
Release Date November 6, 2015 November 9, 2012 November 14, 2008 November 17, 2006
Screens 3,929 3,505 3,451 3,434
Rotten Tomato Score 63% 93% 65% 95%
Opening Weekend $70,403,148 $88,364,714 $67,528,882 $40,833,156

Here are the reasons we can rule out for SPECTRE underperforming Skyfall:

  • Release Date.  All four Bond films have opened in November before Thanksgiving.  The release timing is all within 11 days even though SPECTRE was the earliest released.
  • Screen Count.  SPECTRE had more screens than the past three openers so it wasn’t about shows selling out or customers not being able to find the film.
  • Run Time.  Although not shown, SPECTRE is the longest of these four Bond films at 2 hours 28 minutes.  That seems incredibly long but Skyfall was 2 hours 23 minutes and Casino Royale was 2 hours 24 minutes.  Quantum of Solace was only 1 hour 46 minutes so going shorter doesn’t seem to help much either.
  • Rotten Tomato Score.  Quantum of Solace performed among credits similarly to SPECTRE with a barely Fresh rating.  But Quantum still managed to improve on Casino Royale’s box office numbers while SPECTRE could not top Skyfall.  Moreover, even though Quantum and SPECTRE had similar RT scores, Quantum still outperformed SPECTRE on a per screen basis by nearly 20%.
  • Quality of the Previous Film.  Quantum would imply that performance is based more on the previous movie than the current one–but then that doesn’t explain Skyfall’s huge numbers over the poorly received Quantum. And SPECTRE failing to deliver anywhere close to Skyfall’s numbers despite the entire creative team returning disproves that as well.

So with all of these potential causes ruled out, the only cause I can see for Skyfall’s huge numbers comes down to Adele.  Specifically, the theme song that Adele recorded for Skyfall that was released to the radio a month before the movie came out.

Adele was already one of the best selling recording artists when the song came out and it shot up to number one on iTunes within hours of being released.  The song entered the UK charts at number seven and entered the US charts at number 8–her first Top Ten debut ever.

More importantly, the song received massive airplay in the US.  Every time the song came on the title, the chorus, and the screen for anyone’s digital radio showed Skyfall.  Which then happened to be the Bond movie coming out in a few weeks.  By the time the movie opened the typical US consumer had heard Adele sing the word “Skyfall” approximately eleventy bajillion times.

Compare that to the theme song for SPECTRE, Writing’s on the Wall by Sam Smith.  Smith is an equally successful recording artist.  The single debuted at number one in the UK, the first time a Bond theme song ever did so.  But reception for the song in the US was mixed at best.  The song debuted in 71 and didn’t generate a fraction of the airplay that Skyfall did.  But even when the song did play it wasn’t as directly attributable to the new Bond film–it would take the DJ to say something about the connection combined with the consumer actually listening to the DJ.  It wasn’t as strong a marketing push as Adele’s song.

Could Adele’s song be the reason for Skyfall outperforming all the other Craig Bond films?  I can’t think of any other reason but if you can let me know in the comments.