No Time To Die On Track For $60 Million Opening Weekend Box Office

Update 10/10/2021: "No Time To Die" finished up its opening weekend just shy of expectations, with a domestic box office gross of $56 million.

James Bond can afford to add a few more gadgets to his Aston Martin with what's shaping up to be a solid opening weekend for "No Time To Die." Actor Daniel Craig's final appearance as the smooth-talking super-spy is on track for a $60 million domestic opening as it arrives in North American theaters, following a strong international debut last week.

Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga ("True Detective"), "No Time To Die" has had a challenging road to the big screen. After making the previous 007 movie, "Spectre," Craig said that he would rather "slash my wrists" than make another sequel — an understandable bit of hyperbole, given that he broke his leg while filming "Spectre" and was in agony throughout much of the production. Though Craig ultimately agreed to return, "No Time To Die" then lost director Danny Boyle during pre-production due to creative differences, with Fukunaga stepping in at the eleventh hour to take over. And just when it seemed like things were on track, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived to wreak havoc on Hollywood.

"No Time To Die" is now finally in theaters, almost two years after its original planned release, but will the wait prove to be worth it for MGM and Eon Productions? Variety reports that the latest Bond movie is off to a healthy start with $23.3 million from Thursday night previews and the Friday box office, and a projected opening weekend total of $60 million. That would mark the second-lowest debut of the Craig era — considerably higher than "Casino Royale" ($40 million), but less than "Quantum of Solace" ($67 million), "Spectre" ($70 million), and "Skyfall" ($88 million).

That'll do, Bond. That'll do.

Box office forecasting has been particularly tricky during the film industry's slow emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic. With some demographics more confident than others in returning to theaters, infection and vaccination rates ranging greatly across different regions, and many movies releasing simultaneously on streaming, the traditional measures of box office success have had to be hastily modified.

Based on these early numbers, "No Time To Die" isn't going to be a massive breakout hit of the late-COVID age (unlike "Venom: Let There Be Carnage," which set a pandemic record with its $90 million opening weekend). And this movie has a notably high bar to clear in order to break even; Variety reported in 2020 that "No Time To Die" had a net production budget of $301 million. 

Just as "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" benefited from being a superhero movie targeting a younger demographic, the more modest box office opening for "No Time To Die" may come down to the 007 fandom skewing older. Mortality and hospitalization rates for COVID-19 increase with age, and older moviegoers have therefore been more reticent about returning to theaters. "No Time To Die" is also almost twice as long as "Let There Be Carnage" and is burdened by its ties to "Spectre," which was considered a misfire by many critics and Bond fans.

That being said, a $60 million opening is still a good start for "No Time To Die." If it has strong legs over the next few weeks, then it should end up grossing just enough to cover MI6's exploding pen budget.

"No Time To Die" is in theaters now.