LOS ANGELES — “Skyfall” will live it up another day when the new James Bond movie arrives on U.S. shores after a smashing debut overseas.
The 23rd installment in the iconic spy franchise is on track to open with at least $75 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. That would put the Eon Productions picture sturdily above the $67.5 million bow of 2008’s “Quantum of Solace,” the previous high mark for a Bond film debut, not adjusting for inflation.
A spokesman for Sony Pictures, which is releasing the action thriller, pinned weekend estimates for “Skyfall” in the $65 million-$70 million range. The budget for the film, directed by Sam Mendes, is estimated at $200 million. The picture features elaborate stunt pieces and was shot on far-flung locations that include Turkey and Macao.
Starring Daniel Craig as Agent 007 and Javier Bardem as a disgruntled former agent, the film has already grossed more than $320 million overseas in 12 days of release. It was particularly strong in Bond’s native Britain, where the movie’s $91 million haul already makes it the highest-grossing release of 2012.
An extensive marketing campaign and strong reviews — a 93 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes is the highest for a Bond film since 1964’s “Goldfinger” — are expected to bolster “Skyfall’s” take stateside.
After being held in limbo for several years during rights holder MGM’s bankruptcy, “Skyfall” went into production in 2011 after the legendary studio was reconstituted with new owners and Sony came aboard to distribute and partly finance the picture. (MGM owns 75 percent of the film and Sony 25 percent.)
Bond has been a reliable performer at the box office over the decades, hitting the once elusive $50 million mark as far back as 1985 with “A View to a Kill.” Remarkably, in the U.S., each of Bond’s 22 films has grossed more than the previous movie, a testament partly to inflation but largely to the enduring popularity of Ian Fleming’s signature character.
“Quantum” took in $168 million in the U.S. and $586 million overseas, slightly below the franchise-record $594 million for 2006’s “Casino Royale.” “Skyfall” is expected to easily eclipse those numbers.
No other new wide release is challenging “Skyfall” this weekend. But the three-day period will be a test for Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” which is opening in 11 theaters ahead of its national debut next weekend.
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis as a president caught amid legislative and personal battles, the Disney release has high award hopes for both its cast and filmmakers. The period drama, which cost Spielberg’s production company DreamWorks about $65 million to make, aims to be a box-office comeback of sorts for Spielberg, who is coming off a pair of modest performers in 2011’s “War Horse” and “The Adventures of Tintin.”
Attempting to hold its own in the face of Bond’s bullets is Disney’s animated “Wreck-it Ralph,” a video game nostalgia tale that finished atop the box office last weekend with $49 million.
The Denzel Washington-driven “Flight” also looks to stay aloft: Its $24.9 million take last weekend was a strong debut, but many of the adult moviegoers the film plays to are expected to turn out for “Skyfall” this weekend.
©2012 Los Angeles Times
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