No Time To Die, the 25th official chapter in the long-running 007 film franchise and Daniel Craig's swan song as license-to-kill agent James Bond, spent the better part of the COVID pandemic gathering dust on MGM's shelves waiting for the right moment to make its way to multiplexes. This weekend, that long wait finally ended. So, did those 18 months of delays and date changes pay off? It depends whether you see the martini glass as half full or half empty. With its $56 million opening weekend in North America, the action-packed tentpole fell well short of box-office soothsayers' predictions, but it still marks one of the biggest debuts of 2021.
Originally slated to hit theaters back in April 2020, the eagerly-awaited Bond sequel, pitting Craig's bruised-knuckle MI6 agent against Rami Malek's supervillain, debuted to $56 million in 4,407 locations over the weekend, which translated to a $12,708 per-screen average. But with its $250 million production budget (not to mention its steep marketing campaign), the PG-13-rated movie has to be viewed as something of a disappointment next to its $60-$70 million pre-weekend forecast and the $70.4 million that its predecessor, Spectre, opened to in 2015 (the series' splashiest bow remains Craig's Skyfall with $88.4 million bow back in 2012). Then again, in his nearly six decades of globe-trotting derring-do, James Bond had never met a foe quite like COVID-19, which no doubt played a significant role in the film's softer-than-expected debut since so many of the franchise's longtime fans are older and more cautious about returning to theaters (MGM's internal polling showed that 25% of No Time to Die's audience was heading to theaters for the first time since the pandemic began). Also not helping matters: the film's lengthy 163-minute running time, which limited how many times the film could be shown each day.
As for the glass-half-full portion of 007's performance, No Time to Die earned an A- grade from CinemaScore and a rosy 84% "fresh" rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Better yet, the film continued to clean up overseas, where it was unveiled a week earlier than it was in the States. After two weeks, the espionage epic has pulled in $257.3 million from abroad, bringing its current worldwide box-office total to $313.3 million. Perhaps the best bit of news for MGM (and Universal, who is handling the film's foreign distribution duties) is that No Time to Die still hasn't reached ticket buyers in China-Post too long. Click here to view the full text.