Weekend Box Office Forecast: Can No Time to Die Become the Next Pandemic Era Release to Shatter Expectations?

Photo Credits: Linus Sandgren & MGM & Eon Productions ("No Time to Die")

Friday Update: UAR reports this morning that No Time to Die earned $6.231 million from all preview showings, including Wednesday’s IMAX sneaks and Thursday’s broader rollout.

Comparisons are few and far between for an adult-driven blockbuster during the pandemic. The film did, however, exceed Spectre‘s $5.25 million pre-Friday grosses back in November 2015, as well as Mission: Impossible – Fallout‘s $6.0 million Thursday previews in July 2018.

We’ll begin narrowing down weekend ranges once actual Friday business is estimated by official industry sources.

Thursday Report: It’s only taken six years and a pandemic, but Bond is finally back — and No Time to Die could be poised for an historically significant box office debut.

This weekend is locked and loaded for the highly anticipated and long awaited release of the 25th James Bond film, which will notably be Daniel Craig’s last as the iconic character. It’s been a subject of numerous headlines over the past few years, not the least of which were centered on the film’s trend-setting release delays (four of them, in fact) as the world and the film industry grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, though, moviegoers are coming back. The domestic market has shown incredibly positive trends at the box office throughout 2021, most recently including Venom: Let There Be Carnage‘s over-performance to set a pandemic record with $90 million in its first weekend and also top its own predecessor’s $80.3 million opening three years ago.

That latter achievement is impressive, and one that factors into final forecasts for Craig’s 007 finale. We were already bullish on Bond’s prospects, but there’s even more reason for an optimistic outlook now. Outside of A Quiet Place Part II back in May, which squinted past its own predecessor’s 2018 opening weekend. the Carnage was the first tentpole sequel in four months to resoundingly beat all expectations by a wide margin and indicate that the box office ceiling on some films might be increasing.

Granted, one film isn’t a trend, but it comes on the heels of Shang-Chi‘s dominating September run after it also opened higher than projected during peak Delta variant concerns toward the end of summer. Now, though, moviegoer sentiment is improving (again) and the fall weather means indoor activities — like visiting the cinema — are increasingly attractive for those who have grown tired of watching new content exclusively at home for the past year and a half.

Enter James Bond. After the enormous success of 2012’s Skyfall, it was hard to imagine a Bond film capturing the zeitgeist in such a way again anytime soon. That film had the synergy of the franchise’s 50th anniversary, rave reviews and word of mouth, and a hugely popular title song from Adele to propel it into the pop culture stratosphere.

No Time to Die may be on a comparable path, albeit for mostly different reasons. Coupled with the well-promoted and long-hyped finale factor for Craig, as well as the GRAMMY award-winning title song from Billie Eilish, the latest Bond epic is tracking well ahead of 2015’s Spectre (it opened to $70.4 million).

Social media activity has far exceeded that film’s footprint at the same point before release, and internal modeling suggests No Time to Die is well ahead of the pace of recent blockbusters like F9, Bad Boys for Life, and Mission: Impossible – Fallout.

Fandango itself reported on Wednesday that its own pre-sales for No Time to Die are outpacing those of F9 and the Venom sequel The latter mention has added fuel to the fire speculating that Bond could be on course to shatter expectations.

Context is king, though. Bond is a franchise that typically skews to an older crowd than most comic book pics. 75 percent of Spectre‘s opening weekend was driven by those over the age of 25, while 49 percent were over the age of 35. That’s an audience that has been somewhat more cautious in returning to cinemas so far this year, though primarily among women and parents (with regard to kids’ flicks). Adult men, however, have long been a pillar of box office recovery since as far back as pre-vaccine times last year.

The good news for Bond: while the first Venom skewed young (71 percent under 25), Sony tells Boxoffice PRO that Carnage was more balanced at just 55 percent under that age threshold.

Even better for Bond is that the series is usually less front-loaded than comic book franchises — meaning a higher tendency to see post-preview shows, a lower share of pre-sales versus last-minute and walk-up business, and a stronger multiple throughout the weekend and the weeks ahead as long as word of mouth is positive. The film already has a strong 84 percent score from Rotten Tomatoes critics.

Like Carnage, which leveraged theatrical exclusivity for its big debut, No Time to Die has true event status with no streaming option to be found at home. The series’ creative shepherds at EON Productions made sure this film was held for cinemas and cinemas only until the time was right for audiences to see it. Based on the film’s strong $121 million international start last week, they’ve been vindicated and that success is increasingly likely to translate in the domestic market.

Where Bond also differs from the Venom sequel, though, is run time. Nearly one full hour longer than the comic book sequel, No Time to Die won’t have quite as many screenings in small-to-midsize circuits. According to The Boxoffice Company’s Showtimes Dashboard, the 007 film currently is booked for an estimated 120,000 showtimes from Wednesday to the end of Sunday at a sampled 3,451 domestic locations. By comparison, Carnage claimed 148,000 screenings at 3,532 locations from its Thursday previews through Sunday night.

The tandem performance of Carnage domestically and Bond overseas quickly prompted the question within industry circles as to whether or not No Time to Die can crack $100 million at the North American box office this weekend. All of the above context regarding older audiences is top of mind when trying to answer that question, as is the reality that no Bond film has ever reached the mark before. Skyfall‘s $88.4 million stands as the franchise’s record, but that comparison is nine years old. Adjusted for current ticket price estimates, a similar level of attendance would translate to over $100 million under normal circumstances.

What better time than now for 007 to, at the end of a beloved era in Bond’s history thanks to Craig’s run and the creative evolution that ran parallel with him, finally make it over the hump? There’s enough data to suggest the possibility, but only just so within our final models. It is nowhere near a certainty, and getting anywhere close to such a benchmark is not required to make the movie a success.

For a film with numerous meta moments and qualities that seem oddly relevant to the movie industry these days, it seems only fitting that No Time to Die might do something unprecedented, but it will require an influx of more pre-pandemic trends to hit that upper echelon of expectations this weekend — namely, a big turnout from adults over the 30-35 age range, and/or an expanded young audience.

United Artists Releasing is distributing the film domestically at 4,407 locations this weekend, the widest release in North America since the beginning of the pandemic. Previews began Wednesday evening with exclusive IMAX screenings at 7pm, followed by nationwide previews on Thursday evening. Barring confirmation otherwise, we expect grosses from all of those pre-Friday shows to be rolled into the weekend take.

Forecast Ranges

No Time to Die
Opening Weekend Range: $70 – 105 million

Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Second Weekend Range: $23 – $28 million

Weekend Forecast

Boxoffice projects this weekend’s top ten films will increase between 5 and 20 percent from last weekend’s $126.0 million top ten aggregate.

NTTD’s forecast below will be finalized before the end of Thursday evening.

Film Distributor 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, October 10 Location Count % Change from Last Wknd
No Time to Die MGM / EON / United Artists Releasing $84,000,000  $84,000,000  4,407 NEW
Venom: Let There Be Carnage Sony Pictures / Columbia $25,000,000 $134,100,000 4,225 -72%
The Addams Family 2 United Artists Releasing $10,500,000 $31,800,000 4,207 -39%
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Disney / Marvel Studios $3,600,000 $211,900,000 2,800 -41%
The Many Saints of Newark Warner Bros. Pictures $1,700,000 $7,800,000 ~3,181 -63%
Free Guy 20th Century Studios $1,300,000 $119,700,000 1,495 -43%
Dear Evan Hansen Universal Pictures $1,000,000 $13,700,000 1,927 -59%
Candyman Universal Pictures $650,000 $60,000,000 1,153 -49%
Lamb A24 $600,000 $600,000 ~550 NEW
Jungle Cruise Walt Disney Studios $375,000 $116,700,000 445 -47%

All forecasts subject to revision before the first confirmation of Thursday previews or Friday estimates from studios or alternative sources.

Theater counts are updated as confirmed by studios.

Photo Credits: Linus Sandgren & MGM & Eon Productions ("No Time to Die")