In the 1970s, inflation went sky-high, then dropped, then leveled out, sort of like if Macho Man had been flying a plane when he heart-attacked to death instead of driving a truck. The success (or failure) of Bond films in the '70s reflected the bipolar swing of the economy. While some did well, others bombed emphatically, although Roger Moore looked exactly as confused in each one.
The 1980s were boom years (Reaganomics!), and so Bond tanked. Five 007 films were released, but only one of them managed to bring in more adjusted dollars than its predecessors. This may also be related to the series' involvement of Duran Duran and a-ha.
If there's such a thing as original sin, this is it.
In the 1990s, rather than flinging money around like they couldn't stand the sight of it, people were dumping cash into things with seemingly surefire returns, such as dot-coms and James Bond movies. Previous Bond films all had an average budget of about $30 million. So 1989's License to Kill, the worst-performing entry of the franchise, still wound up earning almost four times its budget. 1999's Tomorrow Never Dies grossed way more, but producers had dumped over $110 million into it, and funneled even more cash into the next two installments. When Brosnan's 007 failed to make people forget about the Heimlich scene from Mrs. Doubtfire, their bulletproof-investment bubble burst, just like all the dot-coms of the '90s.
Casino Royale underperformed in 2006, because we were back to hurling money around in case the terrorists came back and burned it all. Quantum of Solace did even worse, because it was released just a month after the economy imploded, while people were still locked in ferocious denial. Now that we've had four years to stare at the depression like a haunted painting, Skyfall is breaking records around the world.
Which is good, because Craig's insurance rates are insane.
Sorry, Daniel Craig, but we really hope the next one sucks.