Credit: Francois Duhamel

In the box-office lull before the arrival The Hobbit next weekend, Skyfall returned to the number-one spot at the box office, becoming the first film since How to Train Your Dragon to lead the chart in its fifth week. It also became the highest grossing Sony release of all time. Not too shabby, Mr. Bond.

Skyfall topped the domestic rankings with an estimated $11.0 million (down a slim 34 percent from last weekend), which brings its North American total to a stunning $261.1 million. It’s difficult to adequately express how incredible — and somewhat inexplicable — Skyfall‘s run has been. The former franchise high-point for the Bond series was Quantum of Solace, which grossed $168.4 million in 2008. Skyfall has obviously crushed that total, and it still has ample life left in its run.

Even accounting for inflation, Skyfall is the fourth most successful Bond film domestically of all time, behind only the most beloved Sean Connery vehicles from the 1960s. Adjusting for inflation, Thunderball earned the equivalent of $593.9 million in 1965, Goldfinger garnered a $526.4 million total in 1964, and You Only Live Twice managed $285.1 million in 1967. Skyfall already has the other 18 Bond movies beat. That the franchise is hitting a second peak fifty years after its inception, and that Skyfall could possibly overtake You Only Live Twice‘s inflation-adjusted total is truly remarkable.

It’s also remarkable, given trends of the modern market, that Skyfall could return to number one in its fifth week, after three weeks out of the top spot. Many films (like Avatar) spend their first five weeks at number one, but it’s a different achievement to reclaim that ranking. Such box-office behavior isn’t unprecedented, of course, as a handful of other films have done the same thing in the past, but it’s become increasingly rare in today’s frontloaded market, where most wide releases open big but fall hard.

Tootsie (1982), Ghostbusters (1984), Ghost (1990), Basic Instinct (1992), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Forrest Gump (1994), The Passion of the Christ (2004), and How To Train Your Dragon (2010) all took back the pole position after three weeks away. Terms of Endearment (1983), Pretty Woman (1990), and Jerry Maguire (1996) each reclaimed number one after four week breaks. E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982) notched five weeks between number one finishes. Rain Man (1988) did the same thing after eight. Top Gun (1986), incredibly, took back first place after 14 weeks off. As you can see, this sort of activity is mostly a thing of the past. The most recent aforementioned films are How To Train Your Dragon and The Passion of the Christ, and the latter only rose again (ZING!) to number one because of the Easter holiday. Skyfall‘s endurance is a testament to both its fantastic word-of-mouth and exceedingly weak competition.

Worldwide, Skyfall has really flexed its muscles. Thanks to another $18.8 million haul over the past three days, Skyfall‘s international total now stands at $656.6 million — the third best international gross this year behind only The Avengers ($888.4 million) and Ice Age: Continental Drift ($714.0 million). Worldwide, Skyfall has now taken in $918 million total, thus becoming Sony Pictures’ highest-grossing release of all time, ahead of Spider-Man 3, which grossed $890 million worldwide. (Sony and MGM produced Skyfall for $200 million.) With a global total of $950 million looking very likely by year’s end, and an opening in China on the horizon for early next year, Skyfall has a legitimate shot at becoming the first ever billion-dollar Bond.

In second place was DreamWorks’ $145 million holiday-themed animation Rise of the Guardians, which fell only 21 percent (the smallest drop in the Top 10) to $10.5 million. After three weekends, Rise of the Guardians has earned $61.9 million, and although it should hold well in the weeks leading up to Christmas due to its Santa-connection, it’s too little too late for the expensive production. Rise, the last DreamWorks film distributed by Paramount, will go down as a rare misfire for the normally dependable animation house.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 enjoyed three weeks on top of the chart, but it fell into third place this weekend, dipping 47 percent to $9.2 million. After four frames, Summit’s $120 million vampire finale has earned $268.7 million, and it should finish with about $290 million domestically. Worldwide, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is already the biggest hit of the franchise. Its $751.1 million worldwide total stands high above Breaking Dawn – Part 1‘s $712.2 million finish, and it could climb as high as $800 million by the end of its run.

Lincoln and Life of Pi each fell 32 percent and finished in fourth and fifth place, respectively. Lincoln, which cost Disney $65 million, grossed $9.1 million, bringing its five-week total to four score and 17 million… or $97.3 million if you insist on using today’s numerals. The presidential drama, which is already earning awards, will march right past $100 million this week. Fox’s $120 million Life of Pi, meanwhile, earned $8.3 million for a three-week total of $60.9 million. Worldwide, the Ang Lee-directed film has earned $166.1 million. Pi‘s domestic and international’s are both respectable, but with such a high budget, the 3-D spectacle has a long way to go before it’s out of the red.

Way back in sixth, Gerard Butler and Jessica Biel’s soccer-themed rom-com Playing for Keeps completely missed the goal, debuting with an awful $6.0 million and becoming the second straight wide release after Killing Them Softly (which plummeted 60 percent into 10th place this week) to flop out of the gate. Playing for Keeps marks fledgling studio FilmDistrict’s latest underperformer — their one legitimate hit remains 2011’s Insidious, which grossed $54 million. FilmDistrict, who did not provide EW with a budget for the film, acquired domestic distribution rights for the film from Millennium Films, who produced.

Was it the terrible reviews that did Playing for Keeps in? America’s general disinterest in soccer? The use of a gerund in the title? There’s no way to be sure. What we can be sure about, however, is that Playing for Keeps‘ $2,115 per theater average from 2,837 theaters was utterly terrible — all five holdovers ahead of it had stronger averages. We can also be sure that Gerard Butler’s career is in need of some CPR. Butler’s last wide release, the surfing drama Chasing Mavericks, earned $5.8 million in its entire run, and his two films before that, Coriolanus ($757,195) and Machine Gun Preacher ($538,690), were both non-starters. Perhaps most tragic for Butler’s career is the fact that he has no role in next year’s 300: Rise of an Empire. He could certainly use some Spartan street-cred right about now.

Fortunately for the few audiences that did see the film, they seemed to enjoy it. Playing for Keeps earned a “B+” CinemaScore grade, despite the fact that it has just a 2 percent “fresh” rating on RottenTomatoes (the lone positive review comes from eternal iconoclast Leonard Maltin). This is the second week in a row when there’s been a major disconnect between critics and crowds. Last weekend, Brad Pitt’s Killing Them Softly earned 76 percent positive reviews, but a wretched “F” CinemaScore.

1. Skyfall – $11.0 million

4. Rise of the Guardians – $10.5 million

2. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 – $9.2 million

3. Lincoln – $9.1 million

5. Life of Pi – $8.3 million

6. Playing for Keeps – $6.0 million

Among limited release, Silver Linings Playbook, currently playing in 371 theaters, made the biggest impression. Though its $2.2 million weekend and $14.0 million cume aren’t exactly jaw-dropping, the film’s $6,032 per theater average is the strongest in the Top 20, and with the right recipe of awards nominations and gradual expansion, Silver Linings Playbook could become a sleeper box office hit. Not as likely to become a hit is Bill Murray’s FDR-biopic Hyde Park on Hudson, which got off to an unremarkable start this weekend. Hyde Park drove away with $83,300 from four theaters, giving it a solid, but rather tepid $20,825 per theater average.

Check back next weekend for full box office coverage of The Hobbit, which will give the box office some much-needed life.

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  • Sam Mendes