'Quantum of Solace' sets franchise record

Best opening ever for a Bond film in North America

Critics seemed shaken by its nonstop mayhem, but moviegoers were stirred to support "Quantum of Solace" in franchise-record numbers during the weekend as the James Bond film bowed with an estimated $70.4 million in domestic grosses.

A 22nd installment in the lucrative 007 franchise, now the joint property of Sony and MGM, the Daniel Craig starrer opened two frames earlier in many foreign territories and totes a $252 million international cume. Sony is handling physical distribution of the film worldwide, but MGM was a 50-50 participant in its $200 million in production costs.

The previous-best domestic debut for a Bond film was the $47.1 million registered by 2002's "Die Another Day." The franchise's top domestic theatrical run has been charted by "Solace" predecessor "Casino Royale," which rung up $167.4 million in U.S. and Canadian coin after unspooling in November 2006.

"Solace," Craig's second outing as 007, had been set to bow Nov. 7 domestically. But studio executives decided to hold it back a week after Warner Bros. moved "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" from November to July, so the Sony-MGM film could debut closer to the lucrative Thanksgiving period.

The outsized domestic opening for "Solace" exceeded even the high end of prerelease projections and was aided by positive global buzz. Craig's industry star has received an immense boost in the process as moviegoers clearly have taken to him in the iconic Bond role.

"Audiences have embraced him, and domestic audiences were champing at the bit for the film," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said. "It's certainly gratifying, to say the least."

The Marc Forster-helmed film played to audiences comprising 54% males, with 58% of patrons age 25 and older.

In reviews, many critics lamented "Solace's" dark tone and said its action profile compared more closely to rugged Robert Ludlum-inspired films like 2002's "The Bourne Identity" than to a typical Ian Fleming action-adventure.

It's worth noting, then, that "Solace" opened bigger than any installment in Universal's "Bourne" series, for which the best opening came with 2007's "The Bourne Ultimatum" at $69.3 million. "Ultimatum" ultimately fetched $227.5 million domestically and $442.8 million worldwide.

In addition, "Solace" opened bigger than any other non-summer movie this year.

Industrywide, the weekend's $154 million in collective boxoffice marked a 48% improvement on the same frame a year earlier, according to data service Nielsen EDI.

Seasonal boxoffice, at $1.52 billion, is up 9% over fall 2007.

Year to date, 2008 is 4% ahead of the same portion of last year, at $8.62 billion. That's a big-enough spurt to make it possible for '08 to outpace last year's 12-month admissions because this year's lead in grosses appears ample enough to account for ticket-price increases.

Elsewhere during the weekend, three wide releases marked sophomore sessions with varying degrees of success.

The family comedy "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," from DreamWorks Animation and Paramount, notched a relatively modest 43% decline from its opening grosses to register $36.1 million in second place and pump its 10-day cume to $118 million.

Universal's R-rated comedy "Role Models" slipped only 39% to $11.7 million in third place, netting a $38.1 million cume.

And the R-rated laugher "Soul Men," from MGM and Dimension, tumbled 55% to $2.4 million in seventh place, netting a $9.4 million cume.

Looking ahead, two major wide releases square off Friday, six days before Thanksgiving.

Disney unspools its animated comedy "Bolt," including hundreds of playdates in 3-D auditoriums, and Summit Entertainment sends out the teens-and-tweens vampire film "Twilight." The former will seek to sway family moviegoers from "Madagascar 2," and the latter is doing notably well in online ticket presales.
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