James Bond has returned to his rightful place on the big screen — but will audiences meet the smooth-talking spy there?
“No Time to Die” is poised to become one of the biggest releases since the outset of the pandemic. The film, the last Bond flick to star Daniel Craig, debuted to a $121 million international opening, and is poised to bring in $60 to $70 million more on Friday, its official US opening, and over the weekend, per Variety.
The latest installment has a different status from many of its pandemic-era blockbuster peers: It’s being released exclusively in theaters, not simultaneously on streaming platforms, unlike “In The Heights,” “Black Widow,” “The Suicide Squad,” and, most recently, “The Many Saints of Newark.” If audiences want to see Bond, they need to go to theaters. Movie theaters.
At the AMC Boston Common, it seems they are. Many of the nighttime Friday showings are nearly sold out. Manager David Stoddard said that he expects the international spy to “break any records we’ve had” since the theater reopened in August 2020.
“This is the first big release in a bit, so we haven’t quite gotten the big rush yet,” he said. “We’re expecting even more, with Bond coming out, then ‘Halloween,’ ‘Dune,’ a lot of big releases.”
For some, Bond is the exception, not the rule. James Ferdenzi, a self-proclaimed 007 aficionado, watched “The Many Saints of Newark” on HBO Max recently but chose to go to the cinema with his brother and sister-in-law for the full “shaken, not stirred” experience on Thursday, a day before the official opening.
“For this one, I definitely want to be here,” he said. “I didn’t realize how much I was missing it until we’re here right now.”
“I thought he was going to come in a tuxedo tonight,” said his brother, Daniel, with a laugh.
For Boston University student Sophia Scaglioni, this particular moviegoing experience was a long time coming.
”I’ve been waiting [through] three postponements for this movie to come out,” she said, noting that this was her first time back in a theater since the pandemic. “The sooner we can get in, the better.”
None of the people who spoke to the Globe expressed significant qualms about COVID-19 risks, and Stoddard said most patrons respect the guidelines. AMC is back to full-capacity theaters, but masks are still required unless you’re chowing down on popcorn or sipping a soda — which, said patron Ahmad Zahid, “for the full movie experience, you have to.”
Mahmood Abu-Rubieh, who was seeing the film with a friend, said that because they frequent restaurants and concerts, “if we can do that, we can do this.”
“I also think there’s something to it being Daniel Craig’s last one, because a lot of us grew up with him as our Bond,” he said. “You kind of want to see a movie in the theaters? This is a good one to do it.”
Daniel Ferdenzi said that, especially for a high-octane movie like “No Time to Die,” the full-theater experience, complete with a massive screen and surround sound, was non-negotiable.
“Especially an action film like this, that makes a big difference,” he said.
Scaglioni agreed, saying that going to the theater poses no more of a risk than her packed lecture halls. “This is a movie that we wouldn’t have wanted to see if it was released earlier on a computer,” she said. “It’s really important for us to be able to see it on a big screen.”
Not everyone at the theater is on the Bond bandwagon quite yet. Trey Resendez and his mother, Ahna, came to the AMC to see “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” which currently holds the record for highest box office opening since the pandemic, coming in at a whopping $90.1 million. “Venom,” like the Bond movie, isn’t streaming.
While Ahna Resendez was apprehensive about coming to the theater at first, “being here, it felt like normal,” she said.
“I didn’t think I missed the trailers,” she said. “But every trailer, we’re like, ‘Oh, that looks good.’”
Emerson College student Julia Weeks, who watched several Bond flicks with her boyfriend over quarantine, said she was typically partial to streaming — “We’re not going to come see some movie we’re iffy about,” she said. However, she admitted there are upsides to the red velvet seats and communal viewing.
“It feels like an event, versus, if I watched this at home, I’d be looking at Instagram and Twitter,” she said. “If it’s funny, people are laughing all together, you feel the tension in the room.”
If you’re not quite ready for the different kind of tension that comes with returning to in-person moviegoing, there is an option somewhere between online streaming and full-blown cinema. Stoddard said private theater rentals, which are now just a matter of a few clicks on AMC’s website, “have been selling out most days — we usually have two to three a day.”
“People who want to come see a movie in a theater still probably want to see it in a theater,” he said.
Dana Gerber can be reached at email@example.com