“Quantum of Solace”, Daniel Craig’s second run with the James Bond franchise, premiered with a stellar $70.4 million this weekend according to estimates released today by box office tracking firm Nielsen EDI. The opening far outpaced the film’s competitors and racked up the highest score ever for a Bond film in the series’ more than 40-year history.

Craig received praise for his take on the British super spy in the 2006 “Casino Royale”, and critics are also lauding his current work. In “Quantum of Solace”, Bond has put aside his carefree playboy ways since the death of his true love, Vesper. Intent on avenging her death, Bond tangles with M (Judi Dench), who tries to calm his wayward spirit.

The previous top grosser for a Bond film was 2002’s “Die Another Day”, which opened to $47.7 million. The opening of “Quantum of Solace” leaves it poised to become the highest-grossing 007 film, eclipsing the $167 million brought in by “Casino Royale”.

“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” took second place in its second weekend out with $36.1 million, while the comedy “Role Models” landed third with $11.7 million. Now in its fourth week, “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” was fourth with $5.88 million, raising its total to $84.4 million. Clint Eastwood’s “The Changeling” rounded out the top five with $4.25 million.

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Final figures are due out on Monday.

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Box Office Grosses
Week Ending November 16, 2008

Rank Title Weekend Total Gross
1 Quantum of Solace (2008) $70.4M $70.4M
2 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008) $36.1M $118M
3 Role Models (2008) $11.7M $38.1M
4 High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008) $5.88M $84.4M
5 Changeling (2008) $4.25M $27.6M
6 Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008) $3.2M $26.5M
7 Soul Men (2008) $2.43M $9.45M
8 The Secret Life of Bees (2008) $2.4M $33.7M
9 Saw V (2008) $1.79M $55.4M
10 The Haunting of Molly Hartley (2008) $1.65M $12.7M