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Bond film, Madagascar exceed expectations

Arthur J Pais | November 11, 2008 15:07 IST

A scene from Quantum of Solace.

Forgetting recession and other economic problems, moviegoers worldwide greeted two distinctly different films in a very big way over the weekend. The distributors for Quantum of Solace as well as Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa told trade publications that the movie grosses exceeded their expectations.

The latter, which is showing only in a few countries outside North America, is going to expand in the coming few weeks and the trade expectations for it are very high. In North America, it grabbed a mighty $63 million in three days.

Grabbing the top spot in every country it has been released, the new James Bond [Images] adventure Quantum of Solace grossed a mighty $106.5 million over the weekend, Sony-MGM announced. The film is showing in 60 countries. India contributed $3.5 million of the gross. The film, which is yet to open in Australia [Images], Japan [Images], Spain, Mexico and a few other countries, will start its North American run this Friday. It will be interesting to see if it could unseat the animated hit Escape 2 Africa, the DreamWorks film distributed by Paramount.

For 38-year-old director Marc Forster, Quantum of Solace, is the biggest film of his 13-year old career that started in Switzerland [Images]. Its $200 million budget exceeds the combined budget of his previous film including The Kite Runner. And the final gross of Quantum could also far exceed $350 million, the combined gross of his previous films.

The new James Bond film, which opened in a handful of countries October 31and went wide on November 7, has grossed $160 millions in ten days.

Many believe it to be the best Bond film ever, and many reviewers believe that one of the reasons the film is a monster hit is that Daniel Craig [Images] is the best ever Bond after Sean Connery [Images], far exceeding the work of Roger Moore and other Bond actors. He is rugged and he can emote well too.

Trade analysts expect the new film to overtake the gross of the previous Bond film, Casino Royale which had taken about $580 million worldwide. A new generation of viewers, a substantial number of them in their 20s, have discovered Bond, researchers at Sony-MGM say.

And the newspapers in many countries have been recommending the new Bond thriller..

'Casino Royale introduced a darker, grittier 007,' wrote Leicester Mercury, a British publication, 'giving the wheezy spy series a damn good workout which left the franchise as fighting fit as its buff new star, Daniel Craig.'

'Foster has raised the bar again, with a breathtaking film crammed with adrenaline-charged scenes.'

According to the trade publication Variety, the new Bond film had the 11th biggest international weekend ever. The record weekend gross outside North America is $231 million for Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. This summer the Steven Spielberg [Images] adventure Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opened with $146 million in the world market outside of the North American territory.

Bond is the most successful spy franchise in movie history that has lasted more than 45 years.

While Bond was setting records across the globe, in America and Canada [Images], it was the roar of a motley crowd of animals that kept the box-office very busy. The zoo animals-led Escape 2 to Africa showed again the huge appetite for a well-made animated film. In recent years many animated films including Kung Fu Panda have done very big business abroad, at times two times the size of the American business, and Escape 2 Africa is expected to continue that trend.

'If there is a recession, you sure would not know it from looking at this weekend's box-office,' wrote Paul Dergarabedian, a trade analyst and president of Media By New York Post discussing the new Madagascar film. 'Considering that a majority of the tickets were sold at children's prices, the massive opening becomes even more impressive.'

He added, 'This proves that when the kids want to go see a movie, their parents will pay. There's just nothing better than animated animals for kids.'

The film was on about 150 IMAX screens; many full houses were reported from the giant screen theatres over the weekend. Across North America, the movie, which generally got good reviews, played at more than 4,000 locations in North America.

The film, which features the voice of many popular artists in Hollywood including Ben Stiller [Images] as Alex the Lion, Jada Pinkett Smith as Gloria the Hippo and Rock as Marty the Zebra, is the sequel to 2005's Madagascar and it follows the former occupants of a New York City zoo in the lush African country where they face many challenges. The film also offers an emotional story of young lion reconnecting with the father following a cruel separation.

It is also a survival drama and a fable about diversity.

An admirer of the film, the noted critic Roger Ebert wrote how the animals are trying to fix a cargo airplane from World War II and fly it back home, New York. 'Why would they rather be in New York?' he wondered. 'Can't get a cab in Madagascar? They all belong to separate species, but they're comfortable with diversity. These guys would have turned themselves in to Noah.'

There is plenty of survival drama in Quantum of Solace, too and for a James Bond film it offers quite a bit of emotions as Bond is still mourning the love he lost in the previous film, Casino Royale.

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