LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Even before new James Bond flick "Quantum of Solace" blasts into U.S. movie theaters this Friday, industry watchers are expecting it to earn big bucks at box offices and easily top previous 007 film "Casino Royale."
The film is the 22nd in the lucrative series that dates to 1962's "Dr. No" and altogether has grossed over $4 billion at U.S. and Canadian box offices when totals are adjusted for inflation, according to boxofficemojo.com.
"Quantum of Solace," in which the British secret agent battles a villain looking to control natural resources, already has topped box office charts in Europe and other markets.
It debuted in London about two weeks ago, and took in a record-breaking 15.4 million pounds ($25 million) on its opening weekend. So far, it has collected more than $160 million in over 60 international markets.
"This is arguably the most anticipated movie of the holiday season and therefore expectations are quite high," said Paul Dergarabedian of box office watcher Media by Numbers. "I think we are going to see tremendous numbers."
Dergarabedian did not predict an opening weekend figure, but he said "Quantum of Solace" was "certainly on track" to equal or beat "Casino Royale," which debuted with $40.8 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales in November of 2006.
"Casino Royale" introduced actor Daniel Craig as the new James Bond and went on to become arguably the biggest Bond ever with $167 million in the U.S. and Canada and another $426 million internationally for a global total near $594 million.
Dergarabedian noted U.S. box offices have been on a roll lately with five of the past six weekends beating year ago comparisons. Last weekend family film "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" opened to an eye-popping $63 million.
"The fact is, there was so much moviegoing last week that it just enhances the prospects for Bond," he said.
So far, reviews have been mostly good with the film scoring a 76 percent positive rating on Web site rottentomatoes.com, which aggregates movie reviews.
But critical reaction matters little to opening weekend ticket sales for event movies like "Quantum of Solace," which rely on studio marketing to lure crowds to theaters.
The Bond movies are co-produced by EON Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc and distributed by Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Corp's Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Editing by Jill Serjeant