At times fictional superspy 007 seems to be bullet-proof.
The new James Bond film "Quantum of Solace" may prove critic-and recession-proof too when it hits British cinemas this week and U.S. theatres on November 14, box office trackers predict. The second Bond movie with Daniel Craig as the suave secret agent is expected to build on the success of 2006's "Casino Royale," despite economic pressures on movie-goers and agreement among critics that the earlier film was comfortably the better.
"Quantum of Solace is one of the few event pictures left in the year," said Brandon Gray, president of Box Office Mojo.
"People responded very well to Casino Royale, and I think people's affinity for Casino Royale will drive Quantum of Solace to a terrific opening," he told Reuters.
Jack Warner, who covers the box office for Screen International, agreed.
"Bond is a very strong brand to build on," he said. "No one expects a sequel to do less well than the one before it. Casino Royale went down well critically and with audiences, and they will be looking to break that figure."
In Britain, Casino Royale made $107 million, a sizeable percentage of global revenues and a high figure for the country.
Globally it went on to sell tickets worth $594 million, according to www.boxofficemojo.com, the ninth biggest film in the United States in 2006 and fourth biggest worldwide.
"Quantum of Solace stands an excellent chance of outgunning Casino Royale because Casino Royale built up an audience base," said Gray, who saw parallels with Batman, which had a similar makeover when Christian Bale was cast in the lead in 2005.
He did not, however, see Quantum of Solace matching "The Dark Knight," Bale's next outing as the caped crusader which is the top movie of the year so far at $991 million worldwide.
BAD TIMES, GOOD TIMES
Experts said financial turmoil and plunging values of stocks and property would have only a limited impact on ticket sales.
"Movies remain the cheapest, or one of the cheapest entertainment events available, in terms of the type of things you get out of the home to do," said Gray.
"Bond is well suited to ride out any kind of recession."
Where the credit crunch may affect the 22-film franchise, which has earned an estimated $11.5 billion at the box office accounting for inflation since "Dr. No" in 1962, is in funding future films.
A major blockbuster movie generally costs $200 million or more to make and promote.
"As far as the next film's concerned, there is nothing scheduled," Craig was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph.
"Economically the world is in quite a lot of trouble so who knows if we can afford to do another Bond movie any time soon?"
Bond studio Columbia Pictures is part of Japanese conglomerate Sony Corp, which slashed its profit forecasts last week, and its share price has fallen sharply.
Early Quantum reviews have been generally positive, although most preferred Casino Royale and one British reviewer, Cosmo Landesman of the Sunday Times, went so far as to conclude his review: "Craig makes an attractive corpse, but Bond is dead."
Critical reaction usually has little impact on a film's financial prospects, experts said, but if the public word-of-mouth response to Quantum was negative, it could affect the next Bond movie more than Quantum itself.