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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

U.K. box office special: ‘Quantum of Solace’ breaks British records

I’m gonna wait till midweek, when all the numbers are in, to do my becoming-usual comprehensive look at the British box office, but this is worth noting today, since everyone else is talking about it: The latest Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, which opened in the U.K. on Friday, October 31, had the biggest three-day opening ever in that market, earning £15.4 ($25.3) million over the weekend. Studio Briefing at the IMDB notes that the film was playing on 1,150 screens, which works out to a per-screen average of a “whopping $22,000.” (Studio Briefings numbers are all in U.S. dollars — sorry.)

Oh, and those 1,150 screens? They were at only 540 cinemas, which means U.K. moviegoers face the same situation North American ones do when we go to the multiplex: shows starting at 7:30, 7:45, 8:15, 8:30, 9:10… and so on into the evening. (I really must get to a movie next time I’m in England, just to check out how the experience differs, and doesn’t, from the experience here.)
Studio Briefing also points out that Solace also opened in France and Sweden on Friday, and that its combined takings across all three countries for the weekend was £23.8 ($38.6) million. Which has got to have Sony execs peeing their pants with delight.

Charles Gant at the Guardian’s Film Blog — which is rapidly becoming my favorite place to keep up with the British movie scene — is getting some detailed early box office numbers from I-dunno-where, but he also offers the kind of context best gotten from someone on the ground… like the fact that it rained in England on Satuday, which probably helped boost Bond’s number (and which I probably could have learned for myself, via weather news sites, if I’d thought to think of it), and that a midterm school holiday probably also helped boost High School Musical 3’s numbers through the midweek period (which I never would have thought to find out, if the kids were off from school).

The most notable thing from my perspective as regards to Solace is that this is the first film I can recall that opened with such a splash outside North America before it opened within North America. I’m constantly being peeved to learn that movies I’d really like to see aren’t going to be available to be for a while, and maybe not ever on a big screen — like this one, for one. But those are little films with limited appeal, not movies that can be expected to be blockbusters. But a film with such pent-up demand across a wide swatch of moviegoers? That’s intriguing to me: I wonder what the purpose could be of keeping the movie from North American audiences for two weeks. I doubt it’ll have a big impact on North American in this instance, but it does appear as if pirated versions of the movie are already available on the Internet. As download speeds get faster and more people get Net savvy — and as distribution of movies to theaters goes digital, eliminating the needs for expensive physical prints — this will surely become a factor in getting big films a global release on or near the same day. We may never seen this kind of platforming release of a big movie again.

The film opens in a bunch more locales next week — including much of Southeast Asia, the rest of Europe, the Middle East, and South America — before opening in North America on November 14. And why the hell is it not opening in Japan until January 24? That’s bizarre.

If you want to see what the British critics are saying about the film, start here and here. I’m avoiding reading these reviews till I can see the film for myself — which won’t happen till November 12 — and can write my review.

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