NEW YORK • Spectre, the latest James Bond thriller, took in about US$73 million (S$104 million) in ticket sales at North American theatres over the weekend, giving Hollywood one of its biggest openings of the year, even though sales were down sharply from those for Skyfall, the previous Bond movie in 2012.
Spectre, the most expensive 007 instalment, costing Sony Pictures Entertainment, Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer and Eon Productions roughly US$400 million to make and market, has taken in an additional US$223.1 million overseas, breaking records, for a worldwide total of US$296.1 million.
The performance of Spectre in North America, along with very strong opening results for The Peanuts Movie, which collected about US$45 million for 20th Century Fox, ended a funk that included October ticket sales dropping about 44 per cent from a year ago, to US$493.7 million, according to the database Box Office Mojo.
But it also highlighted the unevenness in a year that may set new marks for both hits and misses - while leaving a hole in the middle, where Oscars are typically born.
September was driven by Hotel Transylvania 2. October belonged to The Martian. But in both months, high-profile, mid-range films that were being closely monitored as awards prospects flopped - among them The Walk, Steve Jobs and Our Brand Is Crisis.
And those joined more commercially oriented wipeouts such as Pan, Rock The Kasbah, The Last Witch Hunter and Jem And The Holograms.
One awards prospect that may break through the cloud of disappointment is Tom McCarthy's Spotlight, a critically lauded newspaper drama from Open Road Films.
That picture about the Boston Globe newspaper's coverage of child abuse in the Catholic church enjoyed a splendid opening in a very small number of theatres, taking in US$302,276 in just five locations in New York, Los Angeles and Boston.
The strong sales, averaging more than US$60,000 a screen, raised the possibility that Spotlight would become a classic mid-range hit, mixing plaudits and ticket sales.
Overall, North American ticket sales so far this year are up 5 per cent compared with the same period last year, according to the Rentrak reporting service. But the increase does not reflect what has traditionally been considered a healthy movie marketplace - more hits than misses, with films of different sizes and aimed at different slices of the population.
Instead, the boost comes almost entirely from a handful of mega movies: Jurassic World, The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Inside Out, Furious 7 and autumn hits, The Martian and Hotel Transylvania 2.
With the release of Spectre, Hollywood now turns to two movies that are expected to be monsters: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Advance ticket sales for the new Star Wars instalment have already shattered records.
NEW YORK TIMES