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Taron Egerton Is Playing Elton John In Biopic 'Rocketman'

(EXCLUSIVE) #SPECTRE On Top, #PeanutsMovie Has Strong Debut

Did the 24th James Bond film perform to expectations?

Story by Matt Cummings

For the first time in over a month, the North American box office enjoyed a strong showing, as audiences flocked to see two new releases. Coming in at No. 1 was the James Bond film SPECTRE with $70.4m. While the the 24th entry in the series took the top spot, SPECTRE only matched the low end of expectations, opening around 20% below the $88.36m debut of 2012's Skyfall. It was also just 4% higher than the $67.53m of 2008's Quantum of Solace. Although Skyfall became the highest-grossing Bond film ever, its impressive numbers failed to help the newest (and perhaps last Daniel Craig adventure) to break-out. Part of that lay in the mixed critic's reviews in North America (enjoying only a 60% combined rating on Metacritic). It certainly appears that played a part in its tailing off as Sunday arrived. Still, SPECTRE enjoys a solid 'A-' rating on CinemaScore and should take the No. 1 spot again next week.

Arriving at No. 2 is the family film The Peanuts Movie with a very good $44.21m start. The long-beloved series which debuted with Fox and Blue Sky held its own against SPECTRE, although it failed against earlier releases like 2012's Wreck-It Ralph and 2007's Alvin and the Chipmunks. We think the film is a terrific alternative for families desperate for something new at the theaters; given its strong critic's reception and an even better CinemaScore of 'A', The Peanuts Movie might have more legs than SPECTRE.

The last three entries - The Martian ($9.07), Goosebumps ($6.8m), and Bridge of Spies ($5.8m) - all moved down two spots. But the difference between 1-2 and 2-3 was significant, indicating that audiences were willing put down fresh money to see newer films, but also willing to stay away if buzz or bad reviews got in the way.

The weekend (at $161m total) was the best in a staggering 17 weeks. You have to go back to July 10-12 (Minions at $115.7m) to get a higher total than SPECTRE's opening. But it's also likely that we could see a large drop week-to-week, particularly if buzz continues to focus on its avoidable shortcomings.

And while it's clear that both Peanuts and Bond will get sequels, there will be a lot of debate about how to move both franchises forward. Daniel Craig's comments about being done with portraying Bond haven't helped: we felt the film was too long and missed badly in the third act, but had all the early makings of another Sam Mendes classic spy/action/thriller. Where the series goes from here is anyone's guess: Craig has one more film remaining on his contract, but that might not last especially if SPECTRE experiences a large drop off. Our concerns over the same thing happening with Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation never materialized; but that one enjoyed being the first (and better) of the two for reasons we've discussed many times. With MGM now owning the rights to the organization SPECTRE and its leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld, we're sure to see them retool for the next entry with a new director and perhaps a stronger female lead.

The Peanuts seem to be in the same position, although for different reasons. How does the beloved Charles Schulz series transition now into the Internet age, to become a franchise winner every three or so years? While its simple values of love and friendship have made it a success (so far), will younger audiences accept Charlie Brown and Snoopy as easily as they have other characters like Paddington or the various entries from Pixar? It's already made three times more than the English bear did in its January release, but less than the highly redoubtable Wreck. Again, we think the box office play for Peanuts is long-term, so the Schulz family will have a fun challenge on their hands with the sequel.

Can Bond Hold on in Another Disappointing Week?
While the news is good for Peanuts and SPECTRE, neither made overwhelmingly impressive numbers. Yet, there is a strong possibility that our top 5 will not change for next weekend, as nothing particularly good or appealing is arriving on Friday. The survival film The 33 and My All-American shouldn't come anywhere near to the top spots, although they could knock out Spies and Goosebumps if they receive good enough buzz on Friday/Saturday.

Discuss this story with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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