Although I disagree with you generally about Roger Moore, without whom I firmly believe there wouldn't have been a franchise come 1980, I absolutely agree with your assessment. The Brosnan era re-esblished the franchise to something approaching its 1960s zenith and yet some fans seem almost to resent Brosnan for that. But without Pierce Brosnan we probably wouldn't now have Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.
How is it people can say this with a straight face about Moore, Brosnan, or any other actor? Whether you like them or not, there's no way of knowing how successful another actor would have been in the role instead.
And in comparison with the Dalton era, which is far more relevant? But comparisons are invidious anyway; one simply cannot compare the Connery and Brosnan eras box-office-wise. The whole nature of the industry had changed in the intervening years too much.
Every Bond film (NSNA included) starting with FYEO did worse than its predecessor, with the exception of TLD. When a Moore Bond film (AVTAK) tanks almost as bad as LTK eventually did, and a Connery Bond film is the fourth worst-selling in series history, you know you have bigger problems (or assets) than any one actor. Hell, 6 of the 8 worst-selling Bond films of all time were released in the 80s. Could Brosnan have made a difference? I highly doubt it.
On the other hand, the Brosnan Bonds were relatively stable at the box office, a trend which carried over to CR. I'm sure the 6.5 year hiatus before Goldeneye and the move away from summer releases helped tremendously. Having respectable budgets and marketing campaigns didn't hurt either.
Goldeneye was a proper film against what competition? It should be taken into account the Brosnan series had the advantage of being released in the late fall when there are fewer action/adventure films as competition. What was it against in 1995 that would have given it trouble at the box office? Toy Story was the big thing and then not a lot. Compare that to LTK taking on Batman, Indiana Jones, Lethal Weapon, etc.
1995 was actually one of the weakest box office years
in recent memory. And I agree about the shift back to fall releases. It was only recently that TDK passed Batman '89 in terms of ticket sales, which should give you an idea of what LTK was up against when it came out only three weeks later.
Besides that, Brosnan was already practically anointed Bond from the first series of Remington Steele. When he was removed at the last minute and replaced with Dalton I found it a refreshing choice whereas I figured I knew what we'd get with Brosnan. Brosnan became Bond eventually and brought pretty much what I'd expected and maybe less.
When you really think about it, Brosnan's shadow was over the series for a whopping 20 years. He was first signed in '86, lost it to widespread disappointment, was apparently the Bond everyone had been waiting for in '95, and even in '06 (four years after his swan song) he was the gold standard the new guy was being compared to and many people were still furious about his losing the role. I liked him as Bond and all... but having too strong an association with any particular actor is unhealthy for the franchise.