The slow, staggering resuscitation of the U.S. box office faced a new test this weekend, as anxious studio onlookers watched to see: Would James Bond be able to beat Venom, like all our fan fictions predicted? Or would the big goopy spaceman prevail?
The COVID-19 pandemic has made those kinds of predictions fairly fraught—nobody expected Shang-Chi to burst upward like it did, for instance—and so there was a lot of curiosity about whether Daniel Craig’s final Bond film, No Time To Die, might also over-perform expectations on its opening weekend. (A surge in pre-sales suggested it was a possibility.)
But hopes that the film might beat Venom: Let There Be Carnage for the biggest (non-holiday) U.S. opening of 2021 have now been formally dashed, as THR reports that, rather than a massive breakout hit, NTTD is likely to go down as merely “pandemic good.”
Translation: The same $60 million opening weekend that MGM has been expecting for a while now, dropping it well behind Venom’s $90 million opening last week. Factors impacting this “No, really, it’s fine, we swear” response include the fact that Bond is 163 minutes long, which cuts down on possible showtimes, as well as the fact that Bond movies and superhero blockbusters don’t necessarily share the same demographics, age-wise.
Which is to say that the target audience for Bond films, including No Time, tend to skew 45 and older—i.e., the same groups a lot less likely to risk a trip to the theater to look at all the nice suits and fancy cars and big explosions that Cary Fukunaga’s film pops up on the screen.
(Historically, at least, the Bond movies do fine, mind you; while Skyfall is the only installment to crack the fabled $1 billion point—a number now once again rendered largely hypothetical by the COVID-19 pandemic—none of the Craig films fell below $500 million, keeping them firmly out of “flop” territory.)
Still, though: Bond audiences skew older, older audiences skew “There’s a pandemic on,” and so some of those estimations of No Time To Die’s potential opening burst definitely got away from themselves. (Deadline notes that the wildest claim was made by CNBC, which predicted the movie would bring in $100 million at the domestic box office this weekend, which even MGM seemed to think was patently ludicrous.)
All of these calculations are only focused on the general health of the domestic box office, to be clear; the film’s international results, per Box Office Mojo, are looking much sunnier. Strong showings in Germany and the U.K. (and the fact that it’s already been out for a week over there) have already made it more profitable than Venom, actually, with No Time To Die currently sitting at $144.5 million worldwide.
Which is a decent little pile of cash, y’know, considering. (Still way less than the film’s massive $250 million budget, but that was always going to be an issue for a movie shot in a pre-pandemic blockbuster mindset, but released in mid-pandemic times.) Anyone hoping Bond would be the U.S. box office’s savior is in for disappointment, though; not even 007 can save that particular still-mostly-sunken ship.