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‘No Time to Die’ Could Open to Less Than ‘Spectre’ or ‘Skyfall,’ and That’s OK

The new James Bond movie might not set records, but still be strong: As the box office stabilizes, objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear.

No Time to Die Daniel Craig

“No Time to Die”

MGM

If media attention determined box office, “No Time to Die” would have the biggest opening in history. The film industry’s longest-running franchise became a symbol of Hollywood in the time of Covid when it became the first title to move in response to the pandemic (and move, and move again). However, don’t let the metaphor stretch too far: It is very likely to fall short of the opening numbers for “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” or event the opening weekends of “Spectre” in 2015 or “Skyfall” in 2012 — but that would not make Daniel Craig’s last outing a box-office disappointment. It would make James Bond normal.

Here’s why: It would follow a pattern that “Carnage” established last weekend with its $90 million opening. It was an impressive performance, but it was normal — that is, it outgrossed the original “Venom.” That’s what almost all Marvel-character films do in their second renditions. Similarly, if “No Time” grosses $60 million-$70 million, it will hit the mark of what’s reasonable given precedence and current market conditions.

Four films opened to $70 million or more this year: “Carnage,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Black Widow,” and “F9.” All share an element that “No Time” lacks: They appeal to moviegoers age 35 and younger, as well as the key Latino, Black, and Asian audiences. (In truth, the writers and editors tracking “No Time to Die” are probably more interested in Bond films — at least, more than “Venom” sequels. ) Given Bond’s established reliance on older, mostly white moviegoers (“Spectre” was 78 percent over 25), a $60 million weekend would be a breakout result.

“Skyfall” opened to $88 million; “Spectre” did $70 million (unadjusted figures; both would be higher today). In total, the domestic takes for each were $304 million and $200 million, respectively. “Spectre” is six years old and there’s no clear sense that today’s average 21-year-old moviegoer — who would have been 14 in 2015 — is a likely fan.

VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE, (aka VENOM 2), Carnage, 2021. © Sony Pictures Releasing / © Marvel Entertainment / Courtesy Everett Collection

“Venom: Let There Be Carnage”

©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett

Similarly, Fandango reports that advance ticket sales for “No Time to Die” are ahead of “Carnage” at the same point. That’s not necessarily an even comparison, since an older audience (particularly one that wants seat separation) is more likely to use this option than a younger crowd.

“No Time” also faces an issue that’s relatively unique for 2021: competition. It’s great news for theaters that two major films open across two consecutive weeks, but the year’s prior hits all had the advantage of opening in a new-release void. No film opened to more than $7.5 million in the four weeks before “Carnage.” The Marvel sequel has momentum; although a (normal) fall of more than 50 percent is likely, that’s still a lot of people choosing it over Bond.

With plenty of screens available in major complexes, seats generally wouldn’t be an issue for “No Time to Die” despite its 163-minute runtime. However, United Artists will play the film almost exclusively on higher-priced premium presentation screens — including many held by “Carnage” in week one. That cuts down on capacity, especially at its extended length.

After “Carnage” exceeded expectations, a lesser “No Time” might be seen by some as evidence of a stall in box-office momentum. Considering its trickier audience appeal in pandemic times, the length of time since the release of “Spectre,” and the competition, a quite-good gross may appear to some to be less than expected.

In other words, normal. And another positive sign of recovery.

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