For 'Solace,' it's a question of how big

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elsewhere — was particularly important."

Initially, "Solace" was to bow Nov. 7 in the U.S. and Canada, with only the U.K. and a handful of markets getting the film first. But when Warner Bros. bounced "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" from November to July, executives at Sony and MGM decided to hold back the Bond film one week domestically to open "Solace" closer to the lucrative Thanksgiving period.

Bruer said the film's established international success should help boost must-see interest among domestic moviegoers.

"I certainly believe the buzz is out there with regard to what it's doing throughout the world," he said. "The world is a much smaller place, and that resonates back to the U.S. as well."

"Solace" has yet to unspool in several overseas markets and won't travel to Japan until January. But its early bow in China and other piracy-prone territories has helped keep unauthorized copies of "Solace" from circulating on the Internet or elsewhere, Bruer said.

"All that has shown up is an unwatchable version on the Internet of really, really poor quality," Bruer said.

Partly because of the global buildup to the stateside bow, the Marc Forster-helmed "Solace" appears likely to mount the biggest domestic Bond opening ever, well outpacing the $47.1 million debut for 2002's "Die Another Day." Many believe a $50 million-plus opening is likely, with a first-weekend haul of $60 million doable if moviegoing proves robust this frame.

Meanwhile, it bears watching how films held over from recent domestic openings hold up under the 007 assault.

The family comedy "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," from DreamWorks Animation, and Paramount will seek as much moolah as possible before Disney bows its animated feature "Bolt" next weekend. Animated films tend to play longer than the average release, but the overlap could cause some tumult.

Elsewhere, Universal has a pair of holdover titles targeting different core audiences than "Solace." Yet each could get jostled in a marketplace that will only get more competitive with each successive frame.

Universal's R-rated comedy "Role Models" grossed $19.2 million in an overachieving bow and could see a big second- session drop if younger demographics flock to see Bond. The Angelina Jolie starrer "Changeling" — which rung up $7.3 million during its second session in wide release for a $20.6 million cume — might need a leggy theatrical run if director Clint Eastwood's period drama is to attract notable awards consideration.

Similarly, though it's a foregone conclusion that "Solace" will open well, it's more of an unknown how it will hold up domestically once holiday releases starting hitting multiplexes.

Reviews of the film haven't been as solid as they were for 2006's "Casino Royale" — which marked Craig's first assignment as 007 — and that Bond installment proved a far greater hit internationally than in the U.S. and Canada. "Royale" rung up $40.8 million during its first weekend in domestic release en route to $167.4 million domestically and $594.2 million in worldwide boxoffice.

Two big films bow during the Nov. 21 frame — the first session in the holiday boxoffice season, which runs through New Year's weekend — with "Bolt" and Summit Entertainment's vampire release "Twilight" representing a possible combined boxoffice of $80 million or more. The following Wednesday, three more tentpoles open wide: Fox's epic adventure "Australia," Lionsgate's action sequel "Transporter 3" and Warner Bros.' seasonal comedy "Four Christmases."

If the blur of titles isn't enough to illustrate the holidays' hypercompetitiveness, consider this: "Twilight" was outselling "Solace" almost 2-to-1 this week in presales at MovieTickets.com.

Of course, the core teens and tweens fan base for "Twilight" is more likely to buy tickets online than the audience for a Bond film. Execs at Sony and MGM also can take solace that their film has marked 50% more sellouts than the Summit film — though "Twilight" still has another week to ring up presales. (partialdiff)
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