James Bond's Skyfall has extended its worldwide box-office rule to North America, hauling in a franchise-record $US87.8 million ($A84.84 million) in its first weekend in US theatres.
Adding in $US2.2 million from Thursday night previews at IMAX and other large-format theatres, Skyfall has taken in $US90 million domestically, according to studio estimates on Sunday.
That lifts the worldwide total for Skyfall to $US518.6 million since it began rolling out overseas in late October. Internationally, the 23rd Bond film added $US89 million this weekend to raise its overseas revenue to $US428.6 million.
The third instalment starring Daniel Craig as British super-spy Bond, Skyfall outdid the $US67.5 million US debut of 2008's Quantum of Solace, the franchise's previous best opening. Skyfall more than doubled the $40.8 million debut of Craig's first Bond film, 2006's Casino Royale.
Skyfall has already passed the $US407.7 million overseas total for Quantum of Solace and by Monday, it will top the $US432.2 million international haul for Casino Royale.
The Craig era has reinvigorated one of Hollywood's most-enduring franchises, whose first big-screen Bond adventure, Dr. No, debuted 50 years ago.
"It's quite a testament to Bond, considering it's the 50th anniversary. What a great anniversary present," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution at Sony, which produces the Bond films along with MGM.
Skyfall was the weekend's only new wide release, but Steven Spielberg's Lincoln had a huge start in a handful of theatres. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president, Lincoln took in $US900,000 in 11 theatres for a whopping average of $US81,818 per cinema.
By comparison, Skyfall averaged $US25,050 per cinema in 3505 theatres.
Lincoln focuses on the months leading up to the president's assassination in April 1865, as he manoeuvres to pass the 13th amendment to the US constitution abolishing slavery and end the Civil War.
Distributor Disney will expand Lincoln into nationwide release of about 1600 theatres on Friday and may widen the film further over the Thanksgiving holiday week later this month.
The film has strong Academy Awards prospects for two-time directing winner Spielberg, two-time acting recipient Day-Lewis and the rest of the cast, which includes Oscar winners Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones.
"The performances are some of the greatest of recent time," said Dave Hollis, head of distribution for Disney. "I don't know if you're ever going to think about it again without seeing our actor as Lincoln. Daniel is extraordinary in the role."
Skyfall took over the top spot at the weekend box office from Disney's animated comedy Wreck-It Ralph, which fell to No. 2 with $US33.1 million, raising its domestic total to $US93.7 million.
While Skyfall marked a new high for Bond's opening-weekend revenue, the film has a long way to go to match the biggest audiences 007 has ever drawn. Adjusted for inflation, Sean Connery's 1965 Bond adventure Thunderball would have taken in an estimated $US508 million domestically in today's dollars, with its 1964 predecessor Goldfinger not far behind at $US444 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.
Over the last two decades, the Bond films have come in around the $US200 million range domestically in inflation-adjusted dollars.
Still, Craig's Bond is setting a new critical standard for the franchise. While Quantum of Solace had a so-so critical reception, Skyfall and Casino Royale are among the best-reviewed Bond films, with critics and fans enjoying the darker edge Craig has imprinted on 007.
"Skyfall is to the Bond franchise what The Dark Knight was to the Batman franchise," said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian.
"By taking it to a whole other level, this is a different kind of Bond that can be taken really seriously."
Directed by Sam Mendes, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker behind American Beauty and Craig's director on Road to Perdition, Skyfall continues the current franchise's exploration into the emotional traumas that have shaped Bond's cool, aloof manner.
The film reveals secrets from the past of Bond's boss, British spymaster M (Judi Dench), and pits 007 against a brilliant but unstable former agent (Javier Bardem) who is out for revenge.
Hollywood remains on a brisk pace as the busy holiday season approaches. Overall domestic revenues totaled $US172 million, up 26 per cent from the same weekend last year, when Immortals led with $US32.2 million.
For the year, domestic revenues are at $US9.1 billion, up 4.3 per cent from 2011's, according to Hollywood.com.