Bond's Skyfall rises to the occasion

FOR millions of TV viewers around the world, Daniel Craig escorting the Queen as they parachuted into the London Olympics opening ceremony was an entertaining gag about modern Britain not taking itself too seriously.

But the ceremony's artistic director, Slumdog Millionaire's Danny Boyle, also managed a service for a compatriot, Sam Mendes, by jumpstarting the momentum for his new Bond movie, Skyfall, with a dramatised skyfall.

Despite widespread disappointment about the confusing Quantum of Solace and a delay in production because of MGM's financial troubles, the 23rd Bond instalment is turning into a movie marketing dream.

Also working for Skyfall has been the worldwide attention on the 50th anniversary of the series since Dr No, Adele's hit theme song and a trailer that suggested all the expected action, glamour, grit and exotic locations.

When the movie premiered in Britain, warm to salivating reviews noted that Bond had a proper story this time - dealing with a cyber attack on MI6 - and that Mendes, the Oscar-winning director of American Beauty, had restored integrity and emotion to the series.

Instead of a simultaneous global release, like so many Hollywood blockbusters, maximising hype and minimising piracy, the Skyfall distributors are staging a progressive global rollout that started with red carpet premieres in European capitals.

In two weeks, Skyfall has surged to worldwide box office takings of $US321 million ($A308 million) and is expected to pass $US400 million this weekend, including at least $US65 million from the North America opening.

Boosted by higher ticket prices for large-screen and other premium cinemas, Skyfall appears likely to become the highest-gross Bond movie - overtaking Casino Royale's $US594 million.

Craig will attend a Sydney premiere next week and the film will open nationally a week later, a month after Britain.

The managing director of Sony Pictures Releasing, Stephen Basil-Jones, said the delay was to launch the movie after high school and university exams on a date that would allow it to run through into the January holidays.

He expects it to easily out-perform both Casino Royale's $32.2 million and Quantum of Solace's $31 million, with hopes of taking $40 million.

''It's all come together,'' Mr Basil-Jones said, ''the Olympic launch and all the other star power, [including] Javier Bardem as a foe after people saw him in No Country For Old Men, [as well as] Ralph Fiennes and Judi Dench.''

David Seargeant, the head of Amalgamated Holdings, which owns the Event cinema chain, believes Skyfall is the best movie in the 007 series and thinks it will attract repeat viewers.

''For a number of people, their first reaction is: 'I want to see it again'. That doesn't happen with a lot of films,'' he says.

While box office takings are up 1 per cent on the same time last year, Mr Seargeant believes Skyfall's release is perfectly timed - following the final Twilight instalment, it will have a clear run until the big Boxing Day releases - after a flat run for movies.

''We've had a drought of great films and I think there's a lot of pent-up demand,'' he said. ''Twilight definitely has its audience but Bond is going to go so broad. It's just what the market has been waiting for - a big picture like this.''

This story Bond's Skyfall rises to the occasion first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.