By Brent Lang
LOS ANGELES, (Variety.com) - James Bond and Charlie Brown brought the box office roaring back to life, as "Spectre" and "The Peanuts Movie" attracted big crowds over their opening weekends.
"Spectre," the latest 007 adventure, took first place, debuting to $73 million from 3,929 theaters -- a hefty figure and the second highest in series history, but one that nevertheless trails the launch of "Skyfall." The previous film in the long-running franchise bowed to $88.4 million, but had better reviews and benefited from being the only new wide-release in its opening weekend.
Internationally, "Spectre" is a juggernaut, pulling in $200 million and pushing its worldwide total to more than $300 million after two weeks in release. With a production budget of $250 million and millions more in marketing costs, "Spectre" has to pull in $650 million globally to break even.
It's a time of transition for Bond. Daniel Craig, who was praised by critics for injecting an emotional depth and danger to the character, has hinted this is his last time playing the role.
The search for a replacement has already triggered frenzied speculation about who can take over the series. And Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions are weighing distribution offers. Sony's deal to distribute the Bond films expires with "Spectre," and though the studio is expected to make a bid to keep the series, other suitors, such as Warner Bros. and Paramount, will aggressively pursue the rights to the franchise.
While older audiences flocked to see the martini-swilling spy, Fox's "The Peanuts Movie" appealed to families. The adaptation of Charles Schulz's beloved comic strip racked up $45 million across 3,897 screens. It cost $100 million to make and was produced by Blue Sky, the creative force behind the "Ice Age" series.
On the limited release front, Open Road capitalized on Oscar buzz for "Spotlight." The look at the Boston Globe's investigation of the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal picked up $302,276 from five theaters. That's a healthy per-screen average of $60,545.
The film will gradually expand in the coming weeks and hopes to be in more than 500 theaters heading into Thanksgiving.
"There were multiple sell outs in every theater, every day this weekend," said Jason Cassidy, chief marketing officer at Open Road. "They had to add showtimes."
Bleecker Street opened "Trumbo," a biopic about Blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo with Bryan Cranston, in five theaters. It picked up $77,229 for a per-screen average of $15,445, and will expand into Chicago, Boston, Washington D.C., Phoenix, San Francisco, and Palm Springs.
"We're prepared for the long run," said Jack Foley, distribution head at Bleecker Street. "The plan is to go wide at Thanksgiving and then play out from there."