This weekend Sony and MGM shattered the record for the biggest James Bond opening in franchise history with their latest installment Quantum of Solace which audiences powered to a massive top spot debut. Fellow franchise flick Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa dropped to the runnerup spot in its second weekend and joined forces with the super spy to generate over $100M in ticket sales continuing a boom in business at North American multiplexes that Hollywood hopes will last throughout the rest of the holiday season.
Aiming to become the biggest Bond ever in every way, Quantum of Solace attacked theaters and hauled in an estimated $70.4M this weekend exceeding industry expectations. Averaging a scorching $20,400 from 3,451 venues, the PG-13 film flew past the old record for the largest debut in the four-decade-old franchise which was held by 2002’s Die Another Day with $47.1M. Quantum‘s debut was a whopping 50% bigger and even adjusting for ticket price increases it was still a healthy 23% stronger. The new globe-trotting saga also bested the last film Casino Royale‘s opening by an amazing 72% (60% adjusted).
Solace marked Daniel Craig‘s second turn as the British secret agent and featured a continuation of the direction away from the glossy clean-cut James of old who had a cheesy one-liner for every situation, and towards a vengeful younger man with no need for fancy gadgets. Much has changed since the Brosnan administration. Reviews for Quantum were mixed and were certainly not as glowing as those for Royale. Nevertheless, Craig proved himself two years ago as moviegoers spent $167.007M domestically and over $595M worldwide on the spy flick making it the top-grossing Bond ever, without adjusting for ticket price increases. That good will transferred over to Quantum as fans all showed up right away without having to wait to see if this new blond Bond was any good. Having no new wide releases to compete against also helped.
If estimates hold, Quantum of Solace will also set a new opening weekend record for a spy actioner edging out the $69.3M of last year’s The Bourne Ultimatum. Word-of-mouth will need to be stellar if Quantum wants any shot at beating Ultimatum‘s $227.5M domestic total. This weekend, the new 007 banked $27M on Friday, dipped 4% to $26M on Saturday, and is estimated by Sony to drop 33% to $17.4M on Sunday. With a production budget estimated to be $200M or more, Solace also ranks as the fourth biggest opener of 2008 and the fifth best November bow ever. Studio research showed that 54% of the audience was male while 58% was over 25.
Overseas, Craig and company raked in another $56.1M on 10,460 screens in the third weekend of international play to boost that tally to $252M putting the worldwide cume at an eye-popping $322M. Look for the $400M barrier to crumble as soon as next weekend as Quantum eventually makes its way past Casino Royale to set a new high for the lucrative franchise, especially with major markets like Japan and Australia still to open.
Last weekend’s top film Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa held up well for a sequel in its second frame falling 43% to an estimated $36.1M. Still averaging a stellar $8,888 from 4,065 theaters, the PG-rated comedy upped its ten-day total to $118M and became the first film since August’s Tropic Thunder to join the century club. Both were distributed by Paramount. Escape 2 Africa has a reasonable shot at matching the $193.2M of the first Madagascar flick from 2005 and will be tested next weekend when Disney unleashes its digital 3D toon Bolt which will target the same audience.
The R-rated buddy comedy Role Models followed its potent debut with a solid hold in its second weekend dropping 39% to an estimated $11.7M. With $38.1M in ten days, the Universal release could find its way to $65-70M. Off 36% in its fourth term was High School Musical 3 with an estimated $5.9M boosting the cume to a robust $84.4M for Disney.
With Bond stealing away older adults, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling dropped harder than it did in past weeks falling 41% to an estimated $4.2M. Universal’s Angelina Jolie starrer has collected $27.6M to date and is running somewhat behind the pace of the director’s 2003 pic Mystic River which had grossed $33.5M at the same point in its run. Sliding 49% to an estimated $3.2M was the comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno which has taken in $26.5M to date for The Weinstein Co.
A pair of films led by African American stars followed. MGM’s Soul Men starring Samuel L. Jackson and the late Bernie Mac tumbled 55% in its second weekend to an estimated $2.4M. With $9.4M in ten days, look for a disappointing $15M finish. The Secret Life of Bees continued to enjoy some of the best legs of any fall film slipping only 22% to an estimated $2.4M boosting the cume for Fox Searchlight to $33.7M.
Rounding out the top ten were two fright flicks with similar weekend grosses, but vastly different overall totals. Lionsgate’s Saw V took in an estimated $1.8M, down 56%, for a $55.4M sum. After 24 days, the latest torture flick is running 31% behind the pace of Saw II, 26% behind Saw III, and 10% behind Saw IV. The Haunting of Molly Hartley scared up an estimated $1.7M, off 50%, for a $12.7M sum for Freestyle Releasing.
Opening to sizzling results in limited release was Danny Boyle’s critically acclaimed Slumdog Millionaire which debuted in only ten theaters in six cities but grossed an estimated $350,000 for a muscular $35,000 average – tops among all films in the marketplace. Since its Wednesday bow, the Fox Searchlight release about an uneducated orphan from Mumbai who gets to within one question of winning the top prize on India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire has collected $418,000 over five days. Slumdog has earned some of the best reviews of any film in 2008 and expands to ten more major markets this Friday.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $139.8M which was up a stunning 55% from last year when Beowulf opened in the top spot with $27.5M; and up 8% from 2006 when Happy Feet and Casino Royale debuted with $41.5M and $40.8M, respectively.