Bond grosses

Snapz Pro XScreenSnapz001
























I watched Live and Let Die with my son Sam (11) this evening.  It was his first Roger Moore Bond movie.  Moore, for me, is charming and light, but Sam, quite rightly I think, greatly prefers Daniel Craig.  Watching Moore pretend to kick and karate-chop bad guys in the streets of Harlem and the bayous of Louisiana is thoroughly unconvincing, it doesn’t look like Moore would care to ruin the drape of his slacks.  Although we both got a healthy laugh out of his expertly delivered line: “Don’t worry darling, its just a small hat, belonging to a man of limited means, who lost a fight with a chicken.”  I had also forgotten that the bad-guy plot of Live and Let Die was, at the time, a ripped-from-the-headlines adaptation of the story of Frank Lucas, the real-life Harlem drug lord who really did take over the heroin trade from the Mafia, a tale well-told in the movie American Gangster.

Nevertheless, Sam is of an age enough to want to know the facts of life — by which I mean “How did the movie do?” For this, I turn to Box Office Mojo, which not only keeps track of these things but also goes so far as to adjust grosses for inflation.  (Their list of all-time grosses, adjusted for inflation, is particularly edifying.)

I’m shocked to find that Live and Let Die is one of the least popular of the Moore years. The Looney Tunes cartoon Moonraker is number 1, and the truly bizarre Octopussy is number 2! (No pun intended.) The trajectory seems to be: People weren’t ready to embrace Moore when Live and Let Die came out, then there was the unfortunate Man with the Golden Gun, which would turn anyone off of the series, but then there was the going-all-out Spy Who Loved Me, which saved the franchise and allowed Moore to do five more of them.  It’s hard to imagine a studio today saying “Well, the grosses were way down on the first movie, but let’s let the guy do two more and see if things pick up.”  Which of course goes back to the Bond movies being producer’s movies, the Broccolis own the property and no studio can tell them what to do.  At this point, the Bond movies could justify their production on ancillary rights alone, it’s not like people are going to suddenly stop watching James Bond movies in endless rotation on cable networks.

As for the superior You Only Live Twice doing less than half of the turgid, bloated Thunderball, YOLT had the misfortune of splitting the Bond dollar in 1967 with the ersatz Bond parody Casino Royale, which was a huge hit that year but is not listed here for some reason.


12 Responses to “Bond grosses”
  1. Rumour Willis says:

    I saw some adjusted gross rank a few months ago, and LIVE AND LET DIE was Moore’s top-grossing by some margin. Maybe it was worldwide, or maybe someone’s doing their math wrong, but Bond box office is a weird thing that changes depending on what TOTALLY AUTHORIZED book you happen to be reading!

    • Todd says:

      Ah yes, well the worldwide grosses aren’t counted in this list for some reason. It’s entirely possible, although I remember Moonraker being a huge hit when it came out. Because I’m old enough to remember when Moonraker came out. Because I’m old.

  2. Curt Holman says:

    From Wikipedia:

    “Despite the lukewarm nature of the contemporary reviews, the pull of the James Bond name was sufficient to make Casino Royale the thirteenth highest grossing film in North America in 1967 with a gross of $22.7 million and a worldwide total of $41.7 million ($291 million in 2013 dollars).”

  3. Doug Orleans says:

    I had forgotten that From Russia With Love and Goldfinger both came out in the same year. Completely unthinkable today, even for two parts of a trilogy filmed at the same time!

  4. Don’t feel bad, I saw the putrid Moonraker in the theatre as well. Almost put me off Bond films altogether, and it was the last one I paid ticket prices to see until the Craig Casino Royale.

    I did a double take when I saw Thunderball (which I watched the other night, turgid and bloated is right even though it has its moments) at the #1 slot…but then again, 1965 was pretty much the height of the whole spy craze so I guess it’s not that surprising.

  5. Ian W. Hill says:

    Couldn’t it be the case with this, as sometimes with album sales for a recording artist, the gross for one item is more reflective of the relative popularity of the previous one in the series? (ie; Bowie’s difficult LOW was one of his top-selling albums in the US, building on the popularity of STATION TO STATION & YOUNG AMERICANS, but then HEROES tanked miserably, despite being a bit more accessible than LOW and having a charting single)

    I would have thought SPY WHO LOVED ME would have been higher, but I guess it was still coming back from the bad taste the first two Moore films left with people, but then the horrific MOONRAKER built off the success of SPY. This could also explain the drop from THUNDERBALL to YOLT and the rise from the pretty-good FOR YOUR EYES ONLY to the um, lesser, OCTOPUSSY.

  6. Curt Holman says:

    Moonraker and Octopussy may have fared better by emulating then-recent, popular films: Moonraker piggybacks on Star Wars for its Bond-in-space premise, and Octopussy kinda sorta emulates the Indiana Jones films.

  7. Sal Pizarro says:

    For those of us who weren’t around then, it’s amazing to me to think what 1964-65 was like for Bond fans/moviegoers: From Russia With Love is released in the US in April 1964, Goldfinger follows that winter and Thunderball is released a year later. Three of the most cherished and highest grossing Bond movies are all released in the states in a period of less than two years.

    And I think Indiana Jones in some ways emulated Octopussy — using a South Asian location for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as Octopussy did a year earlier. If anything, I think Octopussy got a bump out of the extra marketing done to compete with Never Say Never Again (and it was a return to a more “adventurous” Bond movie than For Your Eyes Only, with many nods to Goldfinger, that probably built some good word of mouth).

  8. As bad a film that “Octopussey” was and how horrible “Moonraker” was (saw them both in the theater BTW, actually, I’ve seen every Bond film in the theater since “Diamonds Are Forever”) can we all agree that “A View To A Kill” is the WORST Moore Bond film, if not the worst Bond film of all.

    • BenjaminJB says:

      For worst of all time, we have to at least consider “The World is Not Enough”: Denise Richards plays a nuclear physicist named Christmas Jones; and when Bond gets her in bed, he declares, ” I thought Christmas only comes once a year.”

    • Todd says:

      I think Octopussy has the edge over A View to a Kill because A View to a Kill has Chris Walken in it and Octopussy is terrible, its primary villain has no plan and makes no sense and Bond dresses up like a clown.