Sam Mendes' Skyfall -- returning Daniel Craig to the role of 007 for a third time -- should cross $70 million in its domestic debut this weekend, besting the $67.5 million debut of Quantum of Solace in mid-November 2008.
Not accounting for inflation, Quantum's opening was a franchise-best.
Skyfall's prospects are buoyed by its massive showing overseas, where it began rolling out two weeks ago. The Eon Productions movie, from Sony and MGM, has earned nearly $300 million to date, pacing well ahead of Quantum and Casino Royale in most markets.
Sony is giving a more conservative opening estimate of $67 million. One wild card domestically is more bad weather on the East Coast, already hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.
Online ticket service Fandango reports that Skyfall has been selling double the amount of advance tickets for Skyfall as it did for Quantum (Fandango was much smaller in 2008).
The critically acclaimed Skyfall opens in IMAX and on other large-format screens at 12:01 a.m. Thursday (Sony isn't providing an exact location count). It opens everywhere at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
This time out, cinema's most famous spy must save both M -- again played by Judi Dench -- and MI6 from former operative-turned-villain Raoul Silvia, played by Javier Bardem. The movie also stars Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Berenice Lim Marlohe and Albert Finney.
In a testament to the continuing strength of the franchise, Skyfall has the weekend to itself in terms of being the only nationwide release.
Among limited releases, the big headline is Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, which opens in 11 cities this weekend, a week ahead of its nationwide expansion, including in Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Boston. The film hopes to play off this week's presidential election.
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the iconic president, the DreamWorks film is being distributed in North America by Disney. Fox co-financed Lincoln with DreamWorks and will release it internationally.
Also opening in limited release is the historical drama A Royal Affair, the Danish entry for best foreign-language film in this year's Academy Awards race. Magnolia is distributing the film in the U.S.