Credit: Francois Duhamel

It's safe to say that Quantum of Solace wasn't the most well-liked James Bond film. Of course, that didn't stop it from earning $594 million worldwide, but given the tepid audience response, it seems logical that many casual Bond fans would feel uneasy about shelling out $12 for a ticket to the latest Daniel Craig vehicle. Fortunately for Sony, the world's favorite British secret agent has always proved remarkably resilient at the box office, and if international grosses are any indication, it looks like Skyfall won't suffer at all from Quantum's less-than-stellar reception. In fact, the 23rd Bond entry will almost certainly be the biggest one yet.

When Daniel Craig took over the iconic action franchise in 2006, not everyone was convinced that the blonde Bond would prove a box office draw. They were wrong. Casino Royale debuted to a sturdy $40.8 million on its way to a $167.4 million total. More importantly, it earned back audience trust, as it was one of the most well-liked Bond films ever. As a result, 2008's Quantum of Solace opened to much bigger numbers. The sequel found $67.5 million on its opening weekend, but due to weaker word-of-mouth, it fell much more quickly, ultimately finishing with $168.4 million domestically.

Fortunately, Skyfall has a slew of factors working in its favor that should counteract any negative Quantum-effect… and then some. For starters, due to the financial woes at MGM, four full years passed between this Bond entry and the last one, which has given time for anticipation to swell. The release delay may have worked in Skyfall's favor. It's debuting during the much-publicized 50th anniversary year of the James Bond franchise, which has undoubtedly given it more exposure.

Apart from good timing, Adele's well-received "Skyfall" theme song nicely boosted the film's profile over the past six weeks, during which distributor Sony has aggressively marketed the film. (It also doesn't hurt that Craig-as-Bond's seemingly endless endorsement deals have his face plastered everywhere.) Yet all that promotion can't compete with the organic groundswell of buzz provoked by early reactions and reviews for the film, which have been tremendously positive. (EW gives it an "A.") At review aggregation site RottenTomatoes, Skyfall currently boasts a 93 percent "fresh" rating, which has heightened audience expectations.

Throw in a dash of feverish speculation about the fate of certain beloved characters, and the fact that Skyfall got off to such an incredible start internationally (it earned $287 million in its first 10 days), and the stage may be set for the biggest Bond debut of all time.

Sony and MGM spent an estimated $200 million on Skyfall, and some early prognosticators (including this one) believe the film will be the first Bond title to earn that much domestically — especially with an IMAX boost. We'll have to wait and see if that proves to be true, but Skyfall should certainly get off to a great start this weekend, perhaps earning — you ready for this? — about $85 million from 3,505 theaters. (Though part of me thinks it could start even higher.)

Wreck-It Ralph and Flight will each slip back one spot in Skyfall's wake. Ralph should hold up just fine, slipping 35 percent down to $32 million for a $92 million total. Flight will dive a bit harder, since it will lose adult audience to Bond. The Denzel Washington vehicle could fall by 40 percent to $15 million, which would give it a ten-day total of $47 million.

The weekend's other notable new release is Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, which is quietly entering just 11 theaters before going wide next week. Expect a gargantuan per-theater average.

How big do you think Skyfall will be? Do you think my prediction is high? Low? Just right? Check back this weekend to find out!

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