There's a couple of things worth noting in the world of box office returns and action/spy flicks. It's basically all about Bourne vs. Bond these days and if you compare the latest two franchise flicks, there's some interesting numbers to look at here that gives credit to Bourne taking over the crown. The Bourne movies pack a lot of action into a pretty modest budget for an action flick. The Bourne Ultimatum cost $110 million to make but made $442m globally, equally split between domestic and foreign returns.
Quantum of Solace cost what I'd deem an excessive $200 million but has already made $450m globally, with nearly 70% of that is coming from overseas. But you've got to figure in the production costs and how the returns are split between theater and studio, to truly grasp how much better off Universal's franchise is. Solace has only made $47 million for Sony after costs (not even including marketing) while Ultimatum made $133 million for Universal. (Supposedly the studios take is on a sliding scale that works out to be roughly 55%.)
While Solace will increase its haul over the month or so, I doubt it'll actually catch Ultimatum from a pure profit taking stand point.
Even if the Bond franchise is worth more in terms of net value, and even if the Bond films do slightly better globally, the Bourne franchise is ultimately the real winner here because the films are less expensive to produce.
The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum cost a combined $185 million to produce but made $731.3 million at the box office which means roughly $402 million for the studio, or about $217 million after costs (still not accounting for marketing since I don't have those numbers.)
This, of course, is not accounting for DVD sales and TV licenses either -- purely box office speculation.
Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace cost a combined $350 million to produce but made a bit over $1 billion globally which means $574 million for the studio, or about $224 million after costs.
While Bourne 3 did better than Bourne 2, Solace hasn't yet bested Royale and may not accomplish that feat at the box office. The difference when you combine the last two films from each franchise comes from the near $600 million performance of Royale. Solace didn't even manage to hold the top spot at the U.S. box office for more than a single weekend and has already dropped to fourth place.
When all is said and done, I'd give the edge to Bourne so long as Universal keeps costs under control. 65, 70, and then 110 million are not unreasonable expenditures for a growing and successful action/adventure franchise, but the truth is that Royale probably cost too much to begin with and passed on that legacy to Solace. Generally speaking most Bond films have had bloated production budgets going back to 2002 when Die Another Day cost as much Royale did, even though its haul was a respectable $431m.
It seems likely that the next Bond film will cost just as much as Solace did, if not more, which is continually trimming the profit margins even with these huge returns.
Regardless, it's nice to see some competition and based on the numbers that Universal has been looking at, it's pretty clear that American audiences prefer Jason Bourne to James Bond and if Sony doesn't get their costs under control. Superman Returns cost a ridiculous $270 million to make leaving Warner Brothers nearly $54 million in the hole (before marketing) even though the flick made nearly $400 million in theaters.
While the Bond films may be getting better, Sony is treading on thin ice when it comes to fiscal responsibility and eventually, that ice is going to break.