Daniel Craig in "Quantum of Solace." (Columbia Pictures )
As countless villains have learned, there is just no stopping James Bond.
"Quantum of Solace," a tale of the secret agent's quest to avenge the death of the woman he loved, blasted out $70.4 million in ticket sales this weekend. It was the biggest opening for a Bond film ever and surpassed the high expectations set for the film.
Though Bond was clearly the irresistible force at ticket booths, it was a great all-around weekend for Hollywood as two very different comedies, the animated "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" and raunchy "Role Models" stayed strong in their second weekend and came in second and third in box office grosses.
For all releases, the three-day sum is expected to total almost $143 million, according to box-office tracker Media by Numbers. That's up 54% from the same weekend last year and on pace with last week's robust gross.
"People are finding solace at the movies literally and figuratively," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media by Numbers. "We are in store for a very nice run here at the box office."
Next week, two more highly anticipated films arrive: Disney's 3-D animated "Bolt," about a dog and cat on a cross-country journey, and the teen vampire love story "Twilight."
But for now, the world belongs to Bond.
Sony and MGM's "Quantum of Solace," starring Daniel Craig as Agent 007, debuted overseas Oct. 31 and has earned more than $322 million since, Sony said. The action film premiered at No. 1 in each of the 73 territories where it has opened and, in most countries, outperformed its predecessor, "Casino Royale."
Opening overseas didn't hurt the movie's performance in the U.S., said Rory Bruer, president of domestic distribution for Sony Pictures. "By the time 'Quantum' was here, people where champing at the bit," he said. It has yet to open in other major markets including Japan, Australia and Spain.
The 22nd James Bond movie apparently appealed to grown-ups, some of whom may have seen "Dr. No" when it first played in 1962. Weekend exit polls in the U.S. showed 58% of the audience was over 25 and 46% was female.
Women have "definitely responded to Craig as Bond," Dergarabedian said. "He's a Bond women like and men relate to. That paid off."
Going into the weekend, Sony was hoping to reach $50 million in ticket sales to beat the previous highest opening for a Bond film, 2002's "Die Another Day," which rang up $47 million in Pierce Brosnan's last appearance as the legendary spy.
Sony waited for this weekend to release "Quantum" because it looked like the optimum window of opportunity. And the gamble paid off, Bruer said.
"The Bond franchise is totally renewed, relevant and happening," he said.
Also still relevant this weekend was "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," DreamWorks' salute to the plucky ingenuity of escaped zoo animals and their endless capacity for one-liners. "Madagascar" raked in $36.1 million, which Dergarabedian described as "a small drop after a monumental opening" a week ago that brought in $63.5 million.
Coming in third was "Role Models," which banked $11.7 million in its second weekend. Rounding out the top five were "High School Musical 3: Senior Year," with almost $5.9 million in its fourth week, and "Changeling," with $4.2 million, also in its fourth week.
Up and coming in a slow rollout is "Slumdog Millionaire," a romantic melodrama set in India. It opened in just 10 theaters in six cities over the weekend, averaging a respectable $35,000 per theater.
"It is a fantastic start and the highest opening average for any specialty film this year," said Sheila DeLoach of Fox Searchlight. Friday it will open in 10 more cities as the studio hopes word-of-mouth will spur sales.
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Preliminary results in the U.S. and Canada, based on studio projections:
*--* Movie 3-day gross Total Weeks (studio) (millions) (millions)
1 Quantum of Solace (Sony/MGM) $70.4 $70.4 1
2 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa 36.1 118 2 (DreamWorks/Paramount)
3 Role Models (Universal) 11.7 38.1 2
4 High School Musical 3: Senior 5.9 84.4 4 Year (Disney)
5 Changeling (Universal) 4.2 27.6 4
6 Zack and Miri Make a Porno 3.2 26.5 3 (Weinstein Co.)
7 Soul Men (MGM) 2.4 9.4 2
8 The Secret Life of Bees (Fox 2.4 33.7 5 Searchlight)
9 Saw V (Lionsgate) 1.8 55.4 4
10 The Haunting of Molly Hartley 1.6 12.7 3 (Freestyle Releasing) *--*
*--* 3-day gross Change Year-to-date gross Change (in millions) from 2007 (in billions) from 2007 $142.9 +54% $8.1 +1% *--*
Source: Media by Numbers
Los Angeles Times