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Can ‘No Time to Die’ Become the First $100 Million-Plus Opener of the Pandemic Era?

It would be unlikely, but the success of ”Venom 2“ has raised hopes even higher for Bond

MGM’s “No Time to Die” has been pinpointed for months as the film that can kick the pandemic-era box office into the next stage of recovery. Now, after grossing $121 million overseas, Daniel Craig’s final James Bond film has a chance to be the first since the start of the pandemic to earn a domestic opening of over $100 million.

On Wednesday, Fandango reported that advance ticket sales on its site for “No Time to Die” are outpacing those for Sony’s “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” just a week prior. And “Venom 2” surprise $90 million domestic debut not only beat box office projections but also topped the $80 million launch of the first “Venom” — despite a mixed critical reception and no significant turnout from moviegoers over 35.

“No Time to Die,” meanwhile, is heading into U.S. theaters this weekend with strong audience reception from its overseas release — particularly in the U.K., where it opened to a Bond record $28.4 million — along with an 83% Rotten Tomatoes score and the general buzz of being Daniel Craig’s final Bond film after five movies and 15 years playing 007.

Industry projections are staying conservative at around $60 million; and anything north of $70 million, which is what Bond predecessor “Spectre” opened to in 2015, would be a very strong result. But analysts tell TheWrap that the actual floor for “No Time to Die” is likely around $75-80 million, and the film’s performance in the U.K. has raised hopes that the film can top the $88 million U.S. start for 2012’s “Skyfall” and get within striking distance of $100 million.

“Almost everything seems to be going Bond’s way right now,” Boxoffice Pro analyst Shawn Robbins said. “This is a film that has been building buzz for nearly two years with all the delays and trailers, and there’s always interest in seeing a film where an actor is leaving a longtime role. This might be the point where all those talks of pent-up demand for moviegoing finally come true.”

Of course, reaching that vaunted $100 million mark would mean that “No Time to Die” would have to overperform in a way that no film has been able to do since theaters reopened. That means overcoming a 163-minute run time, the longest ever for a Bond film. Epics like the “The Lord of the Rings” films and “Avengers: Endgame” have shown that audiences are willing to stick around for a long film if they feel that it has the action to back it up, and Bond certainly has the action.

But the film will also need significant turnout from audiences over the age of 35, a demo that has not shown up in cinemas in any major way so far this year. It is here that the film’s run time could be a detriment if some potential moviegoers don’t feel comfortable with wearing a mask in a theater for over two-and-a-half hours.

Historically, Bond has drawn out older moviegoers more reliably than any other modern blockbuster franchise, so this weekend will be a real test of whether that demo is ready to return to theaters en masse at a time when films like “Belfast” and “The French Dispatch” that cater specificially to them are getting ready to hit theaters.

Again, Bond doesn’t need to reach $100 million to be a victory for the box office. With “Venom 2” expected to provide holdover support and other films like “Halloween Kills” and “Dune” arriving in the coming weeks, the sort of diversity needed to elevate overall totals is on its way. That will likely mean that major theater chains will start turning profits again this quarter after driving down losses over the course of the summer, setting up a potential rebound in 2022.