"Skyfall" shattered the record for the biggest U.S. 007 movie debut with its $87.8 million opening weekend, leaving no doubt that Daniel Craig is the most bankable Bond ever.
Last week's No. 1 film, Disney's animated family film "Wreck-It Ralph," was No. 2 with $33.1 million from 3,752 screens raising its overall gross to $93.6 million. Those two films drove the overall box office, which was running about 25 percent ahead of the comparable weekend last year, when "The Immortals" led the way with $32 million.
The huge haul for Sony's PG-13-rated "Skyfall" exceeded the projections of analysts and easily surpassed the debut weekend of "Quantum of Solace," which bowed to $67 million in November of 2008.
"Skyfall" gives Sony its ninth No. 1 film of 2012.
With the worldwide total for "Skyfall" now at more than $518 million -- it made $325 million in two weeks abroad before its U.S. debut and added $89 million overseas this weekend -- there's little doubt this will be be the biggest Bond movie ever at the box office. The next two biggest earners also starred Craig. "Quantum of Solace" grossed $586 million worldwide, while "Casino Royale" topped out at $594 million in 2006.
The 23rd film in the 50-year-old 007 franchise averaged $25,050 from each of the 3,505 theaters that it played on. Older males were the top demographic: 60% of the opening weekend audience was male and 75 percent was over 25 years old
It received an "A" CinemaScore from first-day moviegoers, and word of mouth seemed to help. It followed up its $30.8 million first day Friday with $33.8 million Saturday.
With the additional $2.2 million from special exclusive preview runs at 463 Imax and select locations on Thursday, the film has taken in a total of $90 million since opening in North America. Imax took in $13.1 million -- nearly 15 percent of the "Skyfall" gross -- at their theaters, most ever for a non-summer opening.
Pent-up demand for Bond -- it's been four years since the last 007 film -- and great reviews clearly motivated moviegoers. Director Sam Mendes has drawn critical raves, as has the supporting cast -- which includes Oscar winners Javier Bardem and Judi Dench -- and the script from Neal Purvis and Robert Wade and John Logan ("Gladiator").
Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli produced the film, from Albert R. Broccoli's EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Sony Pictures Entertainment. Its production budget is estimated at $200 million.
Paramount's Denzel Washington thriller "Flight" brought in $15.1 million from 2,047 theaters in its second weekend, good for third place. It's overall gross is $47.7 million.
In fourth place was Warner Bros.' "Argo." The Ben Affleck Iran hostage political thriller, in its fifth week of release, took in $6.7 million from 2,763 screens. Its overall domestic gross is $80 million. Its production budget was $44.5 million.
"Lincoln," a front-runner in the Academy Awards Best Picture race, got off to a fast start at the box office this weekend, bringing in $900,000 from just 11 screens in its first three days of release. That's an average of $81,818 per-screen for the Steven Spielberg-directed biopic, making it the year's third-largest limited debut. The impressive debut adds to the film's Oscar momentum and sets up next week, when Disney plans to open it nationwide in about 1,700 theaters
This year's best limited was September's $145,949 per-screen average from five screens for the Weinstein Company's Scientology-inspired film "The Master." "Moonrise Kingdom," Wes Anderson's quirky 1960s tale of tween love, rolled up a per-location average of $130,752 while playing in four theaters over Memorial Day weekend earlier this year.