‘Bondmania’: cinemas hire extra staff for No Time To Die release

Daniel Craig’s delayed last outing expected to be second-biggest Bond film in UK box offices, after Skyfall

  • How long can James Bond resist the call of a TV spin-off?

Last modified on Fri 24 Sep 2021 10.46 EDT

Daniel Craig’s last outing as 007 is expected to be the biggest opening weekend at the British box office since Avengers: Endgame more than two years ago, as cinemas hire hundreds of extra staff to cope with “Bondmania”.

Advance ticket sales have put No Time to Die on track to be the second-highest grossing film in the 59-year-old franchise after it finally gets its world public premiere on 30 September. It follows an almost 18-month delay and four release date changes, and cinema owners are pulling out all the stops to sate demand with the film to be screened in more than 700 cinemas across the UK and Ireland.

Many of the biggest and most popular sites, such as in London, are playing the 25th instalment of the super-spy franchise in back-to-back sessions from one minute past midnight on Thursday, after advance sales hit pre-pandemic levels.

“It is going to be the biggest opening weekend since the pandemic began,” says Tim Richards, the chief executive of Vue, the UK’s third-largest cinema operator. “Covid and changing consumer habits mean there are more advance bookings made now than we used to see, notwithstanding that it looks like Bond is going to have the biggest opening weekend here since Avengers: Endgame in 2019.”

Who could be the new James Bond?

Daniel Craig has played Bond in five films since 2006: Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, Spectre and No Time to Die. Here are the latest odds on who will take over as the next 007, as supplied by the bookmaker William Hill.

Tom Hardy – 5/2 odds

Hardy is no stranger to action-espionage films, having starred in Christopher Nolan’s Inception and The Dark Knight. The 44-year-old earned plaudits for his role in films such as Mad Max and The Revenant, and notably declined to speak about 007 when rumours first surfaced in 2017.

Regé-Jean Page – 3/1

Page, 31, who played the dashing Duke of Hastings in Netflix’s period drama Bridgerton, has been the internet’s choice to land the role amid news that he will star alongside Bond actor Ana de Armas in The Gray Man. In the past year there has been a high demand for Page, who will also feature in Dungeons and Dragons.

James Norton – 3/1

Norton’s Hollywood credentials have continued to grow, from appearances in Grantchester to Happy Valley. The 36-year-old’s turn as Alex Goodman in the crime drama McMafia and more recently in Netflix’s Things Heard & Seen have thrust him further into the spotlight.

Luke Evans – 6/1

Evans, 42, has said he would “jump at the chance” to play Bond. The Welsh actor is best known for his roles as Owen Shaw in Fast and Furious 6 and as Bard the Bowman in The Hobbit. Most recently, he starred alongside Nicole Kidman in Amazon’s Nine Perfect Strangers.

Idris Elba – 8/1

There has been plenty of chatter ever since Elba, 49, posted a photo on Instagram with that Bond caption back in 2018. Known for his high-octane action stunts in the hit BBC crime drama Luther, many hope he will be the first Black Bond.

Henry Cavill – 8/1

Cavill was almost cast as 007 ahead of Craig, having auditioned for Casino Royale. With much being made of the suitability of the 38-year-old’s muscular physique and his turn as Superman, the time could be ripe for him to take up the mantle of 007.

Suranne Jones – 9/1

Jones, the star of the BBC’s underwater thriller Vigil, has been added to the list of potential candidates. The 43-year-old, who plays DCI Amy Silva in the drama, also won plaudits for her roles in the BBC’s Dr Foster and Gentleman Jack.

Lashana Lynch – 10/1

There were rumours that Craig’s current co-star Lashana Lynch, 33, was being set up as the next Bond, but it’s since been revealed she’s playing an agent in her own right.

Henry Golding – 25/1

The Crazy Rich Asians star could become the first British-Asian Bond, having described the vacancy as an “opportunity for change”. Golding, 34, has said he’s more than happy to play Bond.

Jodie Comer – 200/1

The 28-year-old Killing Eve star could be in the running after declaring her willingness to play Villanelle in a Bond crossover, particularly with the Fleabag and Killing Eve creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge as one of the lead Bond screenwriters.

Other names that have been touted include the Game of Thrones and Bodyguard star Richard Madden, The Night Manager’s Tom Hiddleston and Peaky Blinders’ Cillian Murphy.

Richards said Vue, which is showing the film in all 91 of its venues, has had to increase staff numbers by about 10%, adding about 450 new employees to its 4,500 regular workforce, to handle Bondmania.

While no one expects No Time To Die to come near Avengers: Endgame – the highest grossing film of all-time made £31.4m in its UK opening weekend and £43.4m over four days from its Thursday premiere in April 2019 – it looks set to be one of the biggest Bond films ever.

“We sold more [advance] tickets to No Time To Die in 24 hours than we did for Spectre in a month,” says Richards. “To be even-handed, there are now significant increases in advance bookings, but it is still tracking to be bigger than Spectre.”

In 2015, Spectre made £95m at the UK box office and $880m globally, making it the second-biggest film in the franchise after 2012’s Skyfall, which made £103m domestically and $1.1bn worldwide.

Craig’s last outing as Bond will, without question, be the biggest film of the year in the UK, but it remains to be seen if 007 has the ability to bring back the global movie-going masses still hesitant to return to cinemas due to the pandemic.

“Since only one Bond film has ever grossed $1bn I’m not really going out on a limb here by saying No Time To Die won’t reach that box office bull’s eye in the middle of a pandemic,” says Jeff Bock, a senior box office analyst at the industry analyst Exhibitor Relations. “In fact, with only one domestic release topping half that in 2021, just getting halfway there would be an achievement.”

To be the biggest film of the year, No Time to Die would have to overtake the Chinese comedy Hi, Mom, which has made $822m, and F9, the latest in the Fast & Furious franchise, which has pulled in $716m.

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