The James Bond thriller "Spectre" opened to a record-smashing $80 million overseas this weekend, even better than the last 007 blockbuster "Skyfall" did in its international debut.
In the U.K., the film opened to an estimated $64 million in its first seven days of release, the biggest opening run in that country's box-office history. "Spectre" took the mark from "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," which was also released on a Monday and totaled $82 million in 2004. And it set a record for the highest seven-day gross in U.K. box-office history, overtaking the last James Bond film, "Skyfall."
The film opens in the United States on Friday.
The record-breaking numbers -- bolstered by a strong $5 million IMAX theaters haul — provide important momentum for the fourth film starring Daniel Craig as the suave super-spy. It's pacing to open in range of the $88 million debut weekend of of 2012's "Skyfall" when it hits theaters in North America on Friday for MGM, Eon Productions and distributor Sony.
"Skyfall" went on to gross $1.1 billion worldwide, and become the top franchise performer of all time.
The $105,000 per-screen average from 47 IMAX screens of "Spectre" was the highest ever for an opening weekend, topping the $760,000 of "Transformers Dark of the Moon" managed in 2011. In the U.K., the $110,000 average was the best ever too, ahead of the $100,000 of "The Dark Knight" in 2008.
There have been some bumps in the road leading to the release of "Spectre." An early version of the script stolen and leaked in last year's notorious Sony hack. Director Sam Mendes faced overruns on a $300 million budget that was overblown to begin. There was a messy hat dance with the Mexican government over tax credits. And Craig suffered a knee injury, which he has followed in recent weeks with an Aston Martin-full of caustic comments about the world's most famous spy.
But it has plenty of strengths, too. Christoph Waltz, a two-time Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner, joins the cast as the classic evildoer Ernst Stavro Blofeld. His presence lends added class to the film, which also co-stars Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Lea Seydoux and Monica Bellucci
"Spectre" will also benefit from its strong reviews, release date which positions it after two very slow weekends and the goodwill provided by "Skyfall." And Craig's caustic comments, which have not criticized the film, haven';t hurt yet and could actually help raised the film's profile.
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