‘Quantum’ takes aim at box office

International hit hopes to break U.S. records

First, Europe. Next, the world.

Sony and MGM’s latest James Bond installment “Quantum of Solace” is expected to break more records as it opens Friday in North America after a dazzling early run internationally.

By all accounts, “Quantum” is expected to score the biggest domestic opening of any Bond film, easily eclipsing the $47 million bow of “Die Another Day.”

The weekend also sees the entry of a high-profile specialty release, Fox Searchlight’s critically acclaimed “Slumdog Millionaire,” which got off to a strong start Wednesday as it bowed in 10 theaters in six cities. Pic, directed by Danny Boyle, grossed $32,084 from 10 theaters for a per-location average of $3,298.

“Slumdog” did gangbuster business in Los Angeles and New York and solid business in the other cities.

“Quantum of Solace” is the only new wide release, giving it plenty of breathing room. Pic is a follow-up to 2006’s “Casino Royale,” the runaway hit that successfully rebooted the 007 franchise with a more serious and smoldering Bond played by Daniel Craig. “Casino Royale” opened to $40 million at the domestic box office on its way to cuming $167.4 million, the highest gross for a film in the series.

Pic has already begun its international rollout to staggering results, earning $190 million through Wednesday.

Based on the overseas gross, as well as tracking, box office observers believe “Quantum of Solace” will open in the 50s and possible hit or exceed $60 million. All Sony needs to do is best the bow of “Die Another Die” to claim victory.

As with other Bond titles, tracking is strongest among males of all ages. The weakest quadrant is females under 25 (women over 25 have always been drawn to 007).

“Quantum of Solace” will also dominate the foreign box office as it moves into Hungary, Mexico and Vietnam. So the lion’s share of the Bond pic’s take overseas will come from holdover biz, which was impressive last weekend with declines of only 40% in the U.K. and 42% in France.

“Quantum of Solace” opens next weekend in Australia and Spain. It already looks likely to become the fifth 2008 title to hit the $400 million mark overseas, joining “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “The Dark Knight,” “Mamma Mia!” and “Kung Fu Panda.”

“Casino Royale” is the top overseas performer among Bond titles with $429 million.

Rivals are continuing to give “Solace” a wide berth overseas, limiting launches to a few targeted markets. The most notable openings are Universal’s launch of “Changeling” in its first foreign territories with debuts in Belgium, France and Switzerland.

DreamWorks Animation and Paramount’s “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” will open in Malaysia and Singapore. The toon, which moves into Western Europe next frame, has already cumed $42 million internationally from just four markets.

“Madagascar” sequel, which opened domestically last weekend to $63.1 million, should enjoy strong business Stateside in its second frame. Cume through Wednesday was $80 million.

A slew of indie films open domestically, including IFC’s French pic “A Christmas Tale,” which bows in seven runs, and Cinema Libre’s “The Beautiful Truth,” which opens in one run in New York. Yash Raj opens “Dostana” in 74 theaters, while Bharat opens “Vaaranam Aayiram” in 20.

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