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(Fixes typo in 3rd bullet point)
* Cineworld says several screenings already sold out
* Odeon sells over 175,000 tickets in pre-bookings
* Odeon adds over a third of tickets booked by people over 46
By Muvija M
Sept 27 (Reuters) - Advance ticket sales for the latest James Bond movie at UK-based cinema chains Odeon and Cineworld were at levels last seen in 2019, setting it up to be the biggest opening since the pandemic gripped the industry.
Odeon said on Monday it has sold more than 175,000 tickets for "No Time to Die", the latest instalment in the spy series set to hit the big screen this week. Cineworld said it marked its highest pre-selling film since Marvel's superhero movie "Avengers: Endgame" in 2019.
The movie, Daniel Craig's last outing as the special agent, was postponed at least three times from its originally planned April 2020 release as the coronavirus outbreak forced cinemas around the world to close.
Cinema operators have been banking on the popularity of the decades-old Bond franchise to accelerate a revival in a sector trying to get back on its feet in the face of lingering concerns about coronavirus and competition from streaming services.
Cineworld said there were already "several sold out screenings".
"In the opening 24 hours, only 2 films have sold more tickets than NTTD ("No Time to Die") in the past 5 years," said Cineworld, the owner of Regal Cinemas. Its shares were up 11% by 1515 GMT.
NEVER TOO OLD FOR BOND
Bond is attracting older cinema-goers in particular - AMC -owned Odeon said that more than one-third of the tickets were booked by people over the age of 46.
"The latest Bond film, 'No Time to Die', is set to be the biggest opening at ODEON cinemas since summer 2019," London-based Odeon said.
The company added that attendance at its UK venues this month was tracking 10% above pre-crisis levels, boosted by demand for the 25th Bond film.
"The release of a James Bond film is a big event in any year ... but never more so after the last 18 months," UK Cinema Association head Phil Clapp said.
"It would be wrong to place the weight of expectation too much on the shoulders of one title," he said in an email, pointing out a packed slate of movies in the coming months including science-fiction epic "Dune", as well as sequels to the superhero movies Venom and Spider-Man. (Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru Editing by Keith Weir, Mark Heinrich and Giles Elgood)