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Bond shoots for boffo bow in Blighty

World preem in London lifts pic's profile in U.K.

LONDON — James Bond is fighting fit and ready to team up with Borat to blow B.O. takings in Blighty sky high.

“Casino Royale” world preemed in London Tuesday, with producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson on hand to welcome British head of state Queen Elizabeth II.

Also standing in line were Sony chief Howard Stringer, Sony Pictures toppers Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton, Columbia marketing and distrib chairman Jeff Blake and MGM chairman Harry Sloan.

Other guests included Paris Hilton, Elton John, Shirley Bassey, Sting, Lindsay Lohan, Richard Attenborough and Richard Branson.

Pic’s Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen and Judi Dench also attended.

Driven by strong reviews and buoyant industry expectations, the pic has been the talk of the town all week and the premiere did not disappoint.

Some 4,200 guests packed out four theaters in Leicester Square, which simultaneously unveiled the gritty actioner. Excited attendees clapped repeatedly during the film and whooped and cheered as the end credits rolled.

“Casino Royale” bows Thursday in the U.K. and bookers are very upbeat about the pic’s prospects, projecting a $19 million (£10 million) opening four-day figure.

Exhibs consider “Casino Royale” to be a “genuine four-quadrant movie” and note that the trailer, featuring a semi-clad Craig, has been exciting female auds.

Ever since Craig was announced as the new Bond in October 2005, every twist and turn in the casting and pro-duction of “Casino Royale” has been closely monitored by the Brit press, and bookers report that audience awareness is very high.

Reviews have been positive. “Daniel Craig is a fantastic Bond, and all those whingers and nay-sayers out there in the blogosphere should hang their heads in shame,” wrote Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian.

Fuelled by the buzz, final U.K. gross projections have been upped from $47.5 million ($25 million) six months ago to current estimates of between $65 million and $75 million.

But Bond’s arrival does not have to mean the demise of “Borat,” which has grossed $27,129,547 in 11 days in the U.K.

“The two films can combine to sell out theaters across the U.K. on Friday and Saturday,” said one booker.

“Casino Royale” also bows in Russia, the Middle East, Greece, Turkey, Poland and the Czech Republic on Nov. 16. It goes out Nov. 22 in France and Belgium, Nov. 23 in Germany, Holland and Portugal, and Nov. 24 in Spain, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland.

Italian auds have to wait until Jan. 5 for their next Bond fix.

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