Box Office Guy: James Box Office Guy

Patrick Reardon

After a couple of dead weeks at the box office business will finally pick up as a pair of iconic characters are set to do battle this weekend. Before we get to the computer generated bald kid and his delusional beagle, let's dive into the longest running film franchise in movie history.

"Spectre" is the twenty-fourth film in the legendary James Bond franchise. After fifty-three years, twenty-four movies, six lead actors and countless gadgets audiences continue to come back for more. Here are five questions and answers to get you ready for "Spectre."

Why do James Bond movies always open in November?

Throughout the 70s and 80s Bond movies were a staple of the summer movie season. But after two lackluster outings with Timothy Dalton in the lead role ("The Living Daylights" and "License to Kill" are two of the three lowest grossing titles in the series), the franchise took a long six-year hiatus to reboot.

When Pierce Brosnan took over the role in 1995's "Goldeneye," MGM decided to move it out of the more competitive summer season and release the film in November. "Goldeneye" grossed a better than expected $106.4m and ever since then all but one film in the venerable franchise has been released in November (1997's "Tomorrow Never Dies" opened in December). Since the release of "Goldeneye," each film in the franchise has made more money domestically than its predecessor, a trend that "Spectre" will try to continue.

Will this be Daniel Craig's final Bond movie?

This type of question has popped up with the release of nearly every Bond film going all the way back to the Sean Connery days. No matter who is playing the role, rumors always persist that this will be their "final" film. The only people who know the answer to this are Daniel Craig and perhaps his team of agents. If I had to guess, I think he'll be back for one more.

Since taking over the role of Bond in "Casino Royale" in 2006, Craig's 007 films have averaged $213.4m domestically. In this same time period Craig's non-007 films have averaged $56.3m domestically. I have a hard time believing he'd walk away from such a lucrative gig, especially since his track record has been so hit and miss outside of the Bond series. At the current rate these films are produced, the next chapter in the Bond franchise would likely arrive in November 2018. At that point Craig will be 50 years old, which would seem like the perfect time to hang up his tuxedo. Not now.

Who will eventually replace Daniel Craig?

When there are rumors of the lead actor leaving the Bond franchise, the next question people ask is, "who will be the next James Bond?" The fact is nobody knows. While names like Idris Elba, Damian Lewis, Kit Harrington (and pretty much every British actor between the ages of 20-50) may pop up, these rumors are based on nothing more than unsubstantiated media/fan speculation.

As mentioned earlier, if Craig sticks with the franchise for one more film that would take him to 2018. Which means the best-case scenario to see a new actor in the role would probably be 2020 at the earliest. I think the most likely scenario is that the role is re-cast with a relatively unknown British actor five years from now. Five years before he booked "Casino Royale" Daniel Craig was the fifth billed actor in "Tomb Raider." A lot can happen in five years.

What's up with that new Sam Smith theme song?

When I first listened to Sam Smith's "Writing's on the Wall" I was underwhelmed. I was hoping it would grow on me. It hasn't. But if you like Sam Smith and whiny falsetto this may be up your alley:

Fortunately there is no correlation between the quality/success of a Bond theme song and box office results. The only Bond theme to reach number one in the United States was Duran Duran's title theme to, "A View to a Kill," which was one of the least successful films in the franchise.

Will "Spectre" top "Skyfall?"

That is the key question that Fantasy Movie League players must ask themselves this weekend. "Skyfall" is the most successful Bond film of all time and set the bar incredibly high ($88.4m opening, $304.4m domestic total). I think "Spectre" will fall a bit short of this benchmark, but not by much. The early buzz is that the film will satisfy Bond junkies (like myself), but it's very long (at 148 minutes it's the longest Bond film ever) and isn't quite as good as "Skyfall" and "Casino Royale." Look for "Spectre" to end up somewhere in the low $80s this weekend on it's way to another gigantic global haul.

While "Spectre" is primed to make a killing, "The Peanuts Movie" should also do solid business thanks to family audiences. It's hard to gauge whether or not kids today care about comic strip characters that made their debut 65 years ago, but Blue Sky Studios should be up to the task.

In addition to their success with the "Ice Age" and "Rio" films, in 2008 Blue Sky managed to turn a fifty four year old Dr. Seuss book into a big hit ("Horton Hears a Who" $45m opening, $154.5m domestic total). Of the nine films Blue Sky has produced they've never had one open below $33.5m or earn less than $107.5m domestically. With "Hotel Transylvania 2" and "Goosebumps" winding down their runs, "The Peanuts Movie" will be the first option for family audiences until Pixar's "The Good Dinosaur" is released on November 25th. Look for "The Peanuts Movie" to open in the high 30s-low 40s this weekend and give Fantasy Movie League players a tough decision to make.

This weekend you really only have two strategies you can use. You can either use "Spectre" (FB$798) on one screen or "The Peanuts Movie" (FB$387) on two screens. I think "Spectre" is the safer play, but if you feel Bond will under-perform and "The Peanuts Movie" will exceed expectations, you may be better off with Snoopy and friends. Having seen every Bond film in a theater on opening weekend since I was five years old, I'm a tried and true Bond addict. I'm rolling with 007 this weekend.

Weekend Picks

My picks for this weekend's top 5 in total box office (this week's cost in FML Bux in parentheses):

1. Spectre (FB$798)
2. The Peanuts Movie (FB$387)
3. The Martian (FB$77)
4. Bridge of Spies (FB$55)
5. Goosebumps (FB$58)

Bonus Pick of the Week: "Steve Jobs" I was too bullish on it in this column two weeks ago. I picked it for the bonus last week (and paid dearly for it in the standings). I'm giving it one more try since it's priced so cheaply this week at just $FB10. And I refuse to live in a world where a genuinely good movie like "Steve Jobs" gets out-grossed by the movie where Ashton Kutcher played Steve Jobs.

Coming Attractions

The weekend between "Spectre" and "The Hunger Games" should be a fairly quiet in terms of new releases. Antonio Banderas stars in "The 33" which details the true story of the trapped Chilean miners from 2010, the holiday comedy "Love The Coopers" features a large ensemble cast and Aaron Eckhart stars in the fact based football story "My All American."