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Skyfall breaks box office records (but is it just the result of sky-high ticket prices?)


Some dared to call it the best James Bond film yet. Now Skyfall has become the highest-grossing film of all time at the UK box office, surpassing James Cameron’s 3D epic Avatar.

Daniel Craig’s third Bond adventure surpassed Avatar’s record of just over £94m – which it took 11 months to accumulate in 2009 – in just 40 days. It has now taken a total of £94,277,612.

With the 23rd film in the official Bond series being released only in conventional 2D form – meaning ticket prices are usually several pounds cheaper than 3D – it also appears that more people have seen the Sam Mendes-directed spy thriller than Cameron’s sci-fi landmark. Avatar took 90 per cent of its box office revenues from 3D and IMAX screenings.

“Potentially more eyeballs might have seen the film because it’s not a 3D film,” said a spokesperson for the British Film Institute (BFI). “It absolutely has been capturing people’s imagination.”

But with inflation meaning that cinema revenues naturally increase as the years go by due to ever-increasing ticket prices, some film critics argue that such records are not as ground-breaking as they might seem.

In 2001 the average cinema ticket price was £4.14, compared to £6.06 in 2011, according to the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association. Meanwhile the average cost of a 3D ticket last year was £7.83.

For this reason the BFI compiles box office figures adjusted for inflation in order to calculate a truer reflection of a film’s popularity, and according to the report it issued last year Skyfall  still needs to take several more million pounds before it can definitively be called the most successful movie in British cinema-going history, a position Avatar still holds (just) with £98.2m as of 2010/11.

Such nit-picking over the merits of the record did not bother Skyfall producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, however – they are unlikely to be fretting over the latest RPI or CPI indexes released by the Office for National Statistics.

The pair thanked British movie audiences today, saying they were “overwhelmed with gratitude to the cinema-going audiences in the UK who have made Skyfall the highest grossing film of all time.”

Peter Taylor, Managing Director of Sony Pictures Releasing UK, said the film’s success was a fitting way to celebrate the iconic character’s 50th anniversary.

“We’re delighted that cinema-goers have so enthusiastically embraced Skyfall in such an incredible way.”

The film had already racked up various other commercial records. It achieved the best opening weekend figures for any Bond film – taking £20.1m – though it  fell short of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Toy Story 3.

Whether any of this means Skyfall will become the first Bond film to win an acting or directing Oscar is uncertain.

So far the series has picked up a paltry two Academy Awards: for sound effects in Goldfinger and visual effects in Thunderball.