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Image: Daniel Craig
Susie Allnutt  /  AP
Daniel Craig stars as Agent 007 in  "Quantum of Solace," which earned $70.4 million in its first weekend of release.
updated 11/17/2008 9:21:54 AM ET 2008-11-17T14:21:54

James Bond's quantum of the weekend box office: $70.4 million.

"Quantum of Solace," with Daniel Craig returning as Bond for the first direct sequel in the spy franchise, pulled in nearly $30 million more over opening weekend than its predecessor, 2006's "Casino Royale," according to studio estimates Sunday.

The debut also topped the previous opening-weekend record for a Bond flick, $47 million for 2002's "Die Another Day."

Adjusting for inflation, Sony's "Quantum of Solace" easily drew a bigger audience than that installment, the last Bond adventure featuring Pierce Brosnan. Based on 2002 admission prices, about 8.1 million tickets were sold for "Die Another Day" in the first weekend, compared to 9.8 million for "Quantum of Solace."

Two years ago, Craig was an unknown quantity as Bond, a stage-trained actor with little action experience and a resume that tended toward small, artsier films. Many fans were unhappy with the casting choice, but the critical and commercial success of "Casino Royale" silenced the critics.

"Quantum of Solace" picks up where "Casino Royale" left off, with Bond seeking to avenge the death of his lover.

"With 'Casino Royale,' people were rediscovering the franchise in a way with Daniel Craig as James Bond," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony. "Quite frankly, they loved it. They loved the movie, and they loved him in the role, so I think by the time `Quantum of Solace' was ready, audiences in the U.S. as well as the world audience was way ready."

"Quantum of Solace" began rolling out overseas two weekends before its U.S. debut, and its worldwide total now stands at $322 million.

DreamWorks Animation's "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," which debuted at No. 1 the previous weekend, slipped to second place with $36.1 million, raising its 10-day total to $118 million.

"Quantum of Solace" gave a huge boost to overall revenues as Hollywood heads toward the Thanksgiving holiday in late November, one of the year's busiest weekends at theaters. The top 12 movies took in $142.9 million, up 54 percent from the same weekend a year ago, when "Beowulf" led the box office with $27.5 million.

Movie revenue is running 1 percent ahead of 2007's record pace, when the industry took in $9.7 billion, according to box-office tracker Media By Numbers. Factoring in inflation, the number of tickets sold this year is 3.5 percent behind 2007's, though.

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The next two weekends will bring more likely hits, including the vampire romance "Twilight," John Travolta and Miley Cyrus' animated comedy "Bolt" and Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn's holiday romp "Four Christmases."

"Hollywood is in the best possible position right now, because it's all about momentum, and the industry certainly has that heading into the all-important holiday period," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers.

Fox Searchlight's "Slumdog Millionaire" had an impressive debut in limited release, taking in $350,434 in 10 theaters for a strong average of $35,043 a cinema. By comparison, "Quantum of Solace" averaged $20,400 in 3,451 theaters.

A film festival favorite, "Slumdog Millionaire" was directed by Danny Boyle ("Trainspotting," "28 Days Later") and follows the alternately heartwarming and horrific life of a poor youth who becomes a contestant on India's version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Bond through the ages

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  1. Sean Connery

    Villain Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) laughs as British agent James Bond (Sean Connery) lies strapped to a table beneath a laser weapon in a still from the 1964 film, "Goldfinger," directed by Guy Hamilton. Connery, best known to audiences around the world for his role as James Bond, appeared as Agent 007 in seven films, beginning with "Dr. No" in 1962, and concluding with "Never Say Never Again" in 1983. (United Artists via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. George Lazenby

    George Lazenby's first serious acting role was as James Bond in the film, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (1969). Lazenby was the second official actor to portray the British secret agent, following Sean Connery. In the 1970s, Lazenby became known for appearing in four Hong Kong martial arts films, which starred Bruce Lee. He was also one of the stars of "The Kentucky Fried Movie" (1977). (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Roger Moore

    As Bond, Roger Moore took on evil henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel) in "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977). Moore played Bond from 1973 to 1985, beginning with the film, "Live and Let Die" and ending with "A View to a Kill." Before Bond, he was best known for his role as Simon Templar on the British TV series, "The Saint." (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Timothy Dalton

    Timothy Dalton portrayed 007 opposite Maryam d'Abo in "The Living Daylights" (1987). This was one of two films in which Dalton played Bond, the other being, "License to Kill" (1989). (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Pierce Brosnan

    Pierce Brosnan plays Bond opposite Halle Berry as Jinx in "Die Another Day" (2002). Brosnan was originally considered for Dalton's role in "The Living Daylights," but had to turn it down because of his commitment to the TV series, "Remington Steele." He played Bond from 1995 to 2002, beginning with the film "GoldenEye" and ending with "Die Another Day." (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Daniel Craig

    Daniel Craig made his 007 debut in the 2006 film "Casino Royale." With his blond hair, petite stature (at 5-foot-11, he's the shortest actor to portray Bond) and Steve McQueen-type looks, he was a controversial choice for Bond, even inspiring anti-Craig Web sites. Before Bond, Craig was known for his edgy, independent choices in films like "Layer Cake," "Sylvia" and "Enduring Love." (MGM via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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