LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fresh from his triumphant swing across movie theaters overseas, James Bond was on track for a record opening in North America, according to preliminary data issued on Saturday.
"Quantum of Solace," the second film starring Daniel Craig as Agent 007, sold about $27 million worth of tickets in the United States and Canada during its first day of release on Friday, according to distributor Columbia Pictures.
A spokesman for the Sony Corp-owned studio declined to forecast the weekend haul until Sunday. Industry pundits expect it will end up with a three-day sum in the $60 million range.
The record for a Bond opening is held by "Die Another Day," which earned $47.1 million during its first weekend in November 2002. That film was the last one starring Pierce Brosnan. Craig's Bond debut, "Casino Royale," opened to $40.8 million in November 2006.
"On Friday, 'Quantum of Solace' performed at the highest end of our expectations with $27 million and its launch in North America is truly extraordinary," the Columbia spokesman said. "We are on pace to shatter the record for the biggest Bond opening ever and we couldn't be more thrilled."
The film is billed as a 50/50 partnership with closely held Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. Columbia oversaw production, marketing and distribution and funded most of the $200 million production budget. MGM, a struggling studio that has had little box office impact in recent years, has ancillary rights, such as DVD distribution.
Swiss-German filmmaker Marc Forster directed "Quantum of Solace," in which Bond travels the world battling a villain (French actor Mathieu Amalric) looking to control natural resources. Along the way, the vengeful hero earns the enmity of the British and U.S. spy agencies. Top critics largely ripped the movie, according to the reviews website Rotten Tomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com).
At last count, "Quantum of Solace" had earned $180 million internationally through Tuesday, having registered No. 1 openings in virtually all its 58 markets.
Elsewhere in North America, the cartoon sequel "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," slipped to No. 2 with $8.1 million on Friday, according to tracking firm Box Office Mojo. The bawdy comedy "Role Models" fell to No. 3 with $3.8 million, the firm said. Both are in their second weekend of release. "Madagascar" was released by DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc and "Role Models" by General Electric Co's Universal Pictures.
Editing by Peter Cooney