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Even before its release got delayed by Covid-19 lockdowns, No Time to Die was supposed to mark the end of an era. Guaranteed to be the final film in which Daniel Craig would play James Bond, it was meant not only as a send-off to one iteration of 007, but also an opportunity for a new one to fill in. Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge punched up the script; Bond newcomers Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas promised to move the franchise past Bond girls. It was time for a new phase of double-0 cinema. Then, that end was put on hold.
Ultimately, the release date for No Time to Die would be changed four times as coronavirus restrictions were lifted and theaters cautiously reopened. For a while, it seemed as though the delays could weaken the franchise, take the wind out of Bond’s sails. Now, on the first full day of the film’s release, it seems as though it might be poised to do even better than it would have done in those fraught days of spring 2020. According to reporting in Deadline, director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s 007 flick is conservatively expected to bring in $60 million domestically at the box office this weekend. Ambitiously, there’s a chance it could surpass $90 million, a figure that would best the post-lockdown domestic record that Venom: Let There Be Carnage posted last weekend and the $88 million opening Skyfall hit in 2012.
Like all things Hollywood lately, this is cause for only cautious celebration. Opening weekend box office tallies for would-be blockbusters like No Time to Die have been going up since roughly the release of Black Widow in July. But still, movie theater attendance isn’t what it was before the pandemic. Each time Covid-19 cases surge—or something like the Delta variant emerges—people’s reticence to hit the multiplex increases. With coronavirus cases on the decline in the US, there’s a chance folks will head out to see the new Bond. But there’s also speculation that because it’s a 007 movie, it could attract an older demographic that has been less eager to return to the movies than, say, fans of Venom.
There’s also the fact that No Time to Die is being released exclusively in theaters. Unlike Black Widow, which was simultaneously released on Disney+, or the forthcoming Dune, which will hit HBO Max on October 22 when it arrives in theaters, Craig’s final outing as Bond is theatrical-only—with a push for audiences to see it in IMAX. (FWIW, I saw it in IMAX, and it was worth it.) For all of the folks who have waited more than a year for this release—and more than five years since Spectre—the urge to see this one on opening weekend promises to be powerful.
One other point in No Time’s favor: It’s pretty good. Critics have been giving the film good marks, and as an end to Craig’s Bond era, it’s a strong one. As of this writing, advance ticket sales are outperforming those of F9 and the new Venom. There’s even some speculation that the film could make close to $100 million this weekend at the domestic box office. Ultimately, one weekend may not make much of a difference when it comes to the global fate of moviegoing, but at a time when Hollywood is experiencing its own cultural reset, the release of a legacy property like a 007 movie can be an indicator of things to come. This could be Bond’s time to thrive.
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