‘No Time to Die’ Underperforms in Lowest Opening for Daniel Craig’s James Bond

The new 007 film proves it's no time to die at the box office, but it's still not time to live your best life.
No Time to Die James Bond

Welcome to our weekly box office report, which we do a little differently. Rather than focusing on the money, FSR senior editor Christopher Campbell is more interested in the estimated attendance — or number of tickets sold. Because the value of money changes over the years, but the value of actual moviegoers remains the same. This week, we look at the opening box office attendance numbers for the James Bond movie No Time to Die plus indies Lamb and Mass.

Last week, at The Information’s 2021 WTF conference, Universal Pictures chair Donna Langley made a noteworthy claim about the current and ongoing box office situation. “We are anticipating the [theatrical] market to be down by 20 percent going forward, and for it taking a long time to get back to those pre-pandemic numbers.”

It turns out she was right on the money, literally. No Time to Die, the latest James Bond movie, opened to an estimated* gross of $56 million. That’s exactly 20 percent down from the previous Bond movie’s debut of $70 million. Of course, that movie, Spectre, was released five years before the pandemic. Also, while it’s right on the money, the attendance is another matter. No Time to Die sold around 6.1 million tickets, which is down almost 27 percent from Spectre‘s sales.

Still, pandemic or not, and despite being the worst Bond debut for the Daniel Craig era, No Time to Die came awfully close to matching the opening for his first installment, Casino Royale. And it drew a bigger opening-weekend crowd than the Pierce Brosnan hits Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies and Roger Moore‘s greatest box office success, Moonraker. Out of the 16 titles in the Bond franchise with recorded opening-weekend box office figures — since 1977 — No Time to Die places seventh.

James Bond Movies Opening Weekend Box Office Attendance

RankMovie TitleOpening Weekend Box Office AttendanceDomestic Total Box Office Attendance
1Skyfall (2012)11.1 million38.2 million
2Quantum of Solace (2008)9.4 million23.6 million
3Spectre (2015)8.4 million23.7 million
4Die Another Day (2002)8.1 million27.7 million
5The World is Not Enough (1999)7 million25 million
6Casino Royale (2006)6.2 million25.6 million
7No Time to Die (2021)6.03 million6. million
8GoldenEye (1995)6.02 million24.5 million
9Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)5.5 million27.3 million
10A View to a Kill (1985)3.7 million14.5 million
12Moonraker (1979)2.832 million28 million
13The Living Daylights (1987)2.8264 million12 million
14Octopussy (1983)2.8262 million21.6 million
15For Your Eyes Only (1981)2.5 million19.7 million
16License to Kill (1989)2.2 million8.7 million
17The Spy Who Loved Me0.6 million21 million
N/AThe Man with the Golden Gun (1974)N/A11.2 million
N/ALive and Let Die (1973)N/A20 million
N/ADiamonds are Forever (1971)N/A26.5 million
N/AOn Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)N/A16.1 million
N/AYou Only Live Twice (1967)N/A35.9 million
N/AThunderball (1965)N/A63 million
N/AGoldfinger (1964)N/A54.9 million
N/AFrom Russia With Love (1964)N/A26.7 million
N/ADr. No (1964)N/A18.9 million

No Time to Die Box Office vs. Expectations

In many a box office report published on Sunday, No Time to Die was said to meet industry expecations with its opening gross. Deadline offers it as “the lower end” of expectations, which it posts as having been $55 million to $60 million. Variety claims it fell “slightly” below expecations, which are reported there as having ranged between $60 million and $70 million. Trades and other mainstream media also mistakenly sell the Hollywood lie that No Time to Die had the fourth-biggest Craig Bond debut.

As always, I look first to Box Offic Pro with their industry forecast. Heading into the weekend, they predicted No Time to Die would open as high as $84 million! And their range topped out at $105 million! That’s almost twice as much. Last month, the site a better idea with their long-range forecast. At the time, they at least saw a low-end of $56 million in a range going up to $85 million. One week before it opened, Box Office Pro updated their prediction and said $70 million to $95 million.

The Critical and Audience Response

Part of the reason for the uptick was credited to positive buzz on the 25th James Bond movie. No Time to Die received mostly positive marks out of the gate (read our review) and wound up settling in above most of the franchise. At Rotten Tomatoes, where it received a Certified Fresh rating of 84%, it places 7th. At Metacritic, where it scored a 69, it’s in 6th place. Following the disappointing reviews for the last effort, Spectre (63%/60), fans had to be especially excited.

But are audiences on the same page with the movie? They sure are. The Audience Score at Rotten Tomatoes for No Time to Die is higher than the critics’ number, at 89% fresh. And at Metacritic, the movie’s user score is a decent 6.3. Then there are the opening-night moviegoers, who gave No Time to Die a grade of A- according to Cinemscore polling. That’s the most common grade for James Bond movies, going back to 1987. The only outliers are:

Skyfall: A
Quantum of Solace: B-
The World is Not Enough: B+
The Living Daylights: A

The Ending of No Time to Die and Daniel Craig as James Bond

More than positive reviews and word of mouth, however, the big draw for No Time to Die should have been the fact that this is Daniel Craig’s final movie as James Bond. Hardcore 007 fans surely wanted to rush to theaters to see how it all ends. Especially if there was some sort of surprise twist or other kind of ending to No Time to Die that is easily spoiled for people. James Bond actors rarely know in advance that their time has come. So none of them have the sort of swan song Craig gave the audience.

That said, the general crowd for a Bond blockbuster might have stayed away because they’re not as invested in a series finale. Due to the continuous nature of Craig’s run, there are tons of moviegoers who’ve maybe missed an installment or forgotten what happened last time. And many of them didn’t like Spectre enough to revisit it or wonder how No Time to Die would wrap things up. More than even other Craig Bonds, this one sold as a sequel, and not to something enough of us cared about.

The Future for No Time to Die

Normally I would say that No Time to Die should have legs and last in theaters for a while, but things are different now. If Langley’s comments continue to be true, the movie will finish with a domestic gross of 20 percent less than Spectre: $160 million. But No Time to Die will also be theatrically exclusive for a while. Save for bad bootlegs that I am sure exist from earlier release in foreign territories. Speaking of which, the movie’s global gross is already over $300 million, which is great.

According to most sources, home video release in the US for No Time to Die won’t be until January 2022. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s something available, maybe digital at least, by Christmas. How could the distributors pass up the opportunity to sell box sets or digital bundles of all the Daniel Craig Bonds and/or all 25 of the installments of the franchise? Earlier this year, MGM put Respect out on premium VOD early, just 10 days after it opened in theaters. So who knows about the Bond?

Lamb, Mass, and the Opera

In other box office news, one of the best films of 2021 — A24’s mysterious drama Lamb — debuted in the top 10 despite being released in only 583 theaters. The attendance wasn’t huge, but a foreign-language film about a couple adopting a sheep/human hybrid child opening in the suburbs grossing $1 million is not baaaaaaad (sorry). The other new indie, the awards-hopeful drama Mass, took the limited release strategy and wound up with the third-best per-screen average across just four screens.

Rounding out the top 10 was a Fathom Events title, which played only once (so far), on Saturday, October 9th. This was a live HD broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera’s performance of the Modest Mussorgsky opera Boris Godunov. Only around 42,000 people attended the satellite screenings, but it was enough to rank well for the weekend. More people “went” to the opera this past weekend than went to see Jungle Cruise, PAW Patrol: The Movie, and The Eyes of Tammy Faye.

Box Office Attendance for October 8 - October 10, 2021

RankMovie TitleWeekend AttendancePer-Screen AttendanceTotal Domestic AttendanceStudio
1No Time to Die6 million1,3686 millionMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
2Venom: Let There Be Carnage3.5 million82015.4 millionSony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)
3The Addams Family 21.1 million2623.4 millionUnited Artists Releasing
4Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings0.5 million16823.2 millionWalt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
5The Many Saints of Newark0.15 million490.8 millionWarner Bros.
6Free Guy0.14 million9113.1 million20th Century Studios
7Dear Evan Hansen0.111571.5 millionA24
8Lamb0.1091870.1 millionUniversal Pictures
9Candyman0.08 million676.6 millionUniversal Pictures
10Met Opera: Boris Godunov0.04 million530.04 millionFathom Events

*Initially box office grosses are estimated and then are later updated for actual figures.

** Ticket sales and attendance figures are determined with each year’s average ticket prices. Currently, for 2021, that average is $9.16.

All box office gross figures are sourced from Box Office Mojo, The Numbers, and Box Office Pro unless otherwise stated.

Christopher Campbell: Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.